McCallum: Taking A Stand

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(Host) Current medical reports predict that Baby Boomers will live
longer than their parents but be less healthy, with sedentary work lives
partly to blame. Educator, writer and commentator Mary McCallum passes
along a simple suggestion.

(McCallum) Some years ago I
attended a lecture in Vermont by a famous American novelist known for
his quirky style. When an aspiring writer in the audience asked the
author to describe his creative process, his reply was simple and
direct. "I write standing up." He added that there was nothing better
than standing and walking around his studio to energize his process. I
never forgot his no-nonsense advice.

These days, I do some of my
best work standing at the kitchen counter, tapping away on a laptop
that shares space with cooking implements, jars of herbs and a plastic
compost bucket. My straight back and the grounding of my feet on the
floor keep me conscious that I am actively standing and I am working. I
too, find that the physical connection between the keyboard and my feet
stimulates the flow of words and ideas. And when I get stuck, it’s easy
to look up and glance out the kitchen window at the world beyond my
screen, or give whatever is bubbling on the stove a quick stir – still
standing, of course.

But while my working method is usually a
vertical one, the majority of Americans spend eight-hour days sitting
down. Computer screens in office cubicles hold them captive during the
work day, followed by more sitting at dinner and capped by a nation of
tired workers taking a load off their collective feet in front of the
television. And the accumulating medical studies indicate that all that
sitting is killing us.

Living the sedentary life leads to
lowered metabolism, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and a
host of related health problems. One prominent physician has gone as
far as declaring that excessive sitting for hours is a lethal activity
that we engage in on a daily basis – possibly as bad for us as smoking.
His advice is to stand up whenever you can and keep moving. With
emerging options like upright workstations, treadmill desks and
stationary recumbent bikes, today’s office workers can turn the
eight-hour work day into a health advantage instead of a life
threatening activity. Instructional websites show a handy person how to
convert their own treadmill into a desk, making working at home a
moving experience.

As a stand-up writer I’m in good company. A
list of famous novelists who wrote vertically includes Ernest Hemingway,
Vladimir Nabokov and Lewis Carroll. Philip Roth paces while he writes
and claims to walk a half mile for every page he pens. So I’ll keep my
laptop on the kitchen counter and be diligent in remaining upright.
While being on my feet doesn’t always make my written words sparkle, I
suggest a healthy new mantra for sedentary American workers: "I love
this job but I won’t take it sitting down!"

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