If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me!
A recent Swedish study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering news, the discovery that no amount of exercise eradicates this risk certainly was.
A similar Canadian study published last year tracked more than 17,000 for an average of twelve years. It also found that exercising had no effect on reducing health risks in sedentary people. Clearly, if I want to live longer, I’d better get up from my computer more often and start moving!
If that’s not convincing enough, here’s another reason to unplug your computer. This week I came across an article in The Harvard Business Review, For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More. The author Tony Schwartz argues quite persuasively that working ten or twelve hour days is counterproductive. What we need to be doing is following our natural ultradian rhythms. This is a cycle that runs from higher to lower mental alertness every 90 minutes throughout the day. Schwartz says we should take meaningful breaks after every 90 minutes of work. He himself has a routine that sees him have breakfast after his first 90 minutes, jog after his second, and lunch after his third. It makes sense to work this way. It’s how athletes train. They work hard in short bursts and then rest. So for me no more sitting glued to my computer for a couple of hours without a break.
Finally, I’ve started to read You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality technology. Lanier’s provocative book is a passionate call to reclaim our individual humanity from the anonymous hive mind of the digital world. Beware of “cybernetic totalism,” he warns. I’m only a third of the way through the book and already I’m beginning to look at social networking with a much more critical eye.
Well, enough for today. I’m shutting down my computer and going for a good brisk walk. I’ll drink deeply of the sweet spring air, talk to the odd neighborhood cat, and smile at strangers.
Image by Florin Hatmanu
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