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Susanne Reffert | IPMU | Japan

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Combating the Sedentary Lifestyle?

Recently, a study led by Prof. David Dunstan has shown that sitting for long hours is detrimental to our health, even if we otherwise exercise regularly. If you think about it, it’s not even that surprising, though it’s unpleasant news for those of us who work out regularly before or after work. Despite our efforts, we’re still in the danger zone!

And let’s face it, the lifestyle of a theoretical physicist (and I am guessing also of most experimental particle physicists) is definitely sedentary. Several websites went on to collect tips on how to bring a bit of movement into our daily office lives (e.g. some older tips here, and for more extreme tastes, here). Examples are pacing when you’re on the phone, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or passing by the office of a colleague instead of writing an e-mail. I even once read the advice of drinking lots of water (which makes for more frequent trips to the bathroom).
Now I hardly ever make phone calls or need to see people in other offices, so what would work for me? I guess the single best opportunity for a theorist not to be sitting down all the time is to discuss with collaborators on the blackboard instead of at the desk on a sheet of paper. You’re standing up at least, and you have to move your arms to write.
What sometimes works for me is printing out my reading materials and reading them standing up instead of reading them on the screen, sitting down (I have the added benefit of having the printer rather far away. On the other hand, I end up killing more trees like that). Apart from this, it’s a though one. Computer work is computer work. I try to make an effort to stand up at least once every hour and stretch my arms and shoulders a little. But that’s probably hardly enough.

How do other physicists get moving during their working hours? Are you worried about your sedentary lifestyle at all, and if yes, how do you fight it?

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