I like technology as much as the next person. Ok, I probably like technology more than the next person, but enough is enough. Sometimes we just become too dependent on technology in our personal lives, and someone just has to stand up and say something.
It's bad enough that I have a watch that tells me when to breathe and admonishes me when I haven't met some arbitrary quota for physical activity. It is irritating to have a Fitbit that is programmed to ask, “Are you still alive?” after a period of inactivity it (and it alone) deems “excessive.” It is sad that my phone seems insistent in counting my steps every day and mocking me for the results. It would appear that 20 steps a day is not considered sufficient. Worse yet, I suspect that sneaky telephonic bastard is in cahoots with my weasel of a watch, as they seem to share an awful lot of data about me.
And now there is an app that can tell me when to stand at my desktop, and researchers have the gall to think it will lower my blood pressure. That really makes my blood boil.
An article published on this site yesterdayreported that there is now a desktop program that can prompt desk workers to take breaks from sitting, and that this activity “leads to significant and lasting reductions in blood pressure.”
The study, reported in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,“evaluated a software application called Exertime, which encourages office workers to take breaks from sitting for non-exercise physical activity. At scheduled intervals, the app presented workers with scheduled "movement break" screens. The break screens could be postponed, but once they appeared, workers had to click through each screen before they could resume working on their computer.”
At first, I was not really clear on what type of “movement” we were talking about. I'm glad I figured out they just meant away from the desk. That could have been truly embarrassing. I wonder if the program also makes some loud noise or can tap you on the shoulder when the alerts pop up. This would be important to know in case one was asleep when the alerts triggered on the screen. I'm basically asking for a friend.
According to the article:
The study evaluated changes in blood pressure in 228 desk-based employees who used the app for 1 year. The results showed "clinically meaningful" reductions in blood pressure, beginning within 3 months and continuing through 9 to 12 months. Average systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by about 1 to 3 mm Hg, while diastolic pressure (the second, lower number) decreased by about 4 to 5 mm Hg.
Larger reductions were seen in workers who had initially had hypertension (high blood pressure) or "prehypertension." In those with hypertension, both the systolic and diastolic pressures decreased by about 8 to 11 mm Hg.
It seems to me that something that pops up on your screen and locks you out of your work until you do something about it would do anything other than lower your blood pressure. I know I used to have something like that, courtesy of Microsoft. We called it the “blue screen of death.” Today's equivalent, at least until the advent of Exertime, would likely be called “Your computer is doing updates,” which now occurs at the most inconvenient times possible, and sends my blood pressure through the roof.
I am not one to take high blood pressure lightly. A couple years ago when mine rang in at 196/92 at the doctors' office, I told them not to worry. I planned to sell when it got to 200.
With blood pressure, as with everything else, all you need is a plan. The rest is easy. But I digress.
Scientists have shown that prolonged sitting has been linked to many health risks. I believe the saying is that “sitting is the new smoking” or something like that. I figure that once all of us are off our fat arses and wandering the office they will discover that standing is the new smoking. I don't mean to be skeptical, but science has shown that eggs are both healthy and fatal a number of different times in my lifetime. Sometimes it depends on who funds the study, of course.
So, in the meantime I will both sit and stand while I wait for the La-Z-Boy funded study that will show sitting is healthier for me. I am sure that standing will be beneficial in one area, to be sure. When I've reached my limit of work interrupting reminders on my computer screen, it will make throwing the damn computer out the window a much easier task to accomplish.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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