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Standing up and being counted

Today the media is featuring reports upon a scientific study commissioned by Pubic Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which recommends that office workers should spend two hours – and preferably four – on their feet, rather than sitting at their desks.

Apparently the average worker spends nine hours per day (or 60% of their waking time) sitting, which inevitably contributes to serious health issues such as obesity, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. It is also directly linked to the likes of back, neck and muscle pain which – I love this sort of statistic, even though sometimes I cannot believe them – currently causes the loss of 131 million sick days per annum in the UK.

Writing as someone who no longer works but who has spent sufficient cumulative amounts of time sitting at a computer desk over the last thirty years to have acquired two semi-fused vertebra and resulting stiffness in my lower back, I can personally see where this study is coming from.

During a recent appointment at the dentist I took my place in the dreaded chair and then found myself being gradually being leaned backwards – the better for my new dentist, whom I had never met before, after my previous one had retired, to ‘get at’ my choppers. So far backwards, in fact, that my feet were nearly above my head and I was almost ‘bent’ over middle of the chair.

It felt good. In an attempt to find common ground and prompt some form of communication with my new torturer, I nervously but boldly commented that I felt I ought to go out and buy a similar dental chair for use in the privacy of my own home – being stretched this far backwards over what amounted to the summit of a considerable slope seemed to be having a greatly-beneficial effect upon my aforementioned lower back condition.

[I might add here that this offering made no difference at all to the intensity and extent of pain I subsequently suffered at the hands of my new sadist.]

monitorIn a similar context, in the past month I have also become a general social nuisance via my purchase from a high street sports store of a £39 watch-type contraption that I strap onto my wrist. This is not one of the new Apple watches, but a version of a ‘personal training aid’ that is becoming popular in the gymnasium I frequent.

Not only does it tell you the date and time, right down to the current second, but it also gives you ‘current’ statistics upon a range of physical exertions that you have undertaken each day.

To wit, it displays firstly, the number of steps you have taken since midnight; secondly, some sort of statistic (which I have not yet identified and one of these days must try to discover); and thirdly, the number of calories that you have burned off since midnight.

The idea is that you programme the device to specific targets – in my case, I have set my ‘steps’ target at 10,000 per day and my ‘calorie loss’ at 3,000 per day. By pressing a button on the side of the display screen, you can flick from one to the other.

Accordingly, at any time of the day and in any gathering, I can cause varying degrees of interest (and the opposite) by suddenly looking at said screen and announcing “I have already done 4,576 steps today” … and then, by pressing the button twice more [twice because, the first time I press it, the figure then displayed is the one that thus far I do not understand] … “… and I have also burned off 1,399 calories”.

The fun aspect is that – when you get close to, or indeed pass, the ‘targets’ that you have set yourself, the display begins and then continues flashing for the remainder of the day.

When your habitual routine is as mundane as mine – viz. rarely more than watching Pointless and Homes Under the Hammer on daytime television – it is surprising how rewarding my ‘exercise monitor’ is proving itself to be.

For example, when I first get up (i.e. anywhere between 0045 and 0300 hours each day) I can quickly establish exactly how many calories – viz. usually somewhere in the vicinity of 150 and 325 – I have already burned since midnight, simply in the course of sleeping.

As with all things, however, there are limits.

I have already been told by several family members and friends that – for example – giving updates on my ‘steps’ and ‘calories lost’ totals more than once every fifteen minutes is not only boring but actually annoying to those around me.

It’s a bit like the frequency with which you jump onto your bathroom scales. Many will tell you that you should never get on the scales at all – well, only when you ‘weigh in’ at the start of a regime and then when you come to its conclusion. Others counsel once a month, or once a week. One thing that I do – and nobody recommends – is weigh myself nearly every time I walk pass my bathroom scales.

I do it – and consult my new wrist device regularly – because in my view anything, however trivial or hare-brained, that tends to keep your mind on the task at hand, whether that be fitness or weight loss, is a plus.

After all, every little helps …


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About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts