The New and Improved Rat Race


I'll admit that I'm not sure how I feel about this invention yet.

On the one hand, it does seem to address the issue of our desk jobs becoming a health hazard due to prolonged hours of sitting. And, as studies have started to show, it's not enough even to 'balance' eight hours in a desk chair with time spent at the gym, a treadmill desk would be a creative solution.

However, all I can think is, "Jane! Stop this crazy thing!!!"

Obviously, because I'm writing to you, I'm sitting (possibly slumped a little) in front of my laptop. It's become a necessary evil these days. Fortunately, I do most of my writing at home where I have the freedom to get up often, move my screen around the house for a variety of positions and settings, and I really strive to balance my laptop time with housework, gardening, jumping around, and of course, shiatsu sessions.

But I feel the toll it takes on my body and energy level. I find it hard to imagine doing this type of work every day - 6, 8, 10 hours. I start going bonkers, usually after 45 minutes, as my eyes glaze over, my low back hurts, and my brain gets fuzzy.

I was not too surprised to discover that in 2008, a gal (writer, speaker, advisor and former senior high-technology executive) named Linda Stone coined a term, "screen apnea".

This came after eight months of research in which she observed a phenomenon where a majority of screen users - whether a computer, mobile device, or tv - would actually hold their breaths or breathe very shallowly. (You just took a deep breath, didn't you? Yeah, me too...)

Stone followed up with the implications of this behavior by consulting two doctors of the National Institutes of Health, who had conducted research on the impacts of breath-holding to the body, and its contributions to stress-related diseases.

It should be obvious -  you know, how not breathing is probably not good for you - but still, it is interesting for a society that talks a lot about stress and traces it to the fast-pace and overwhelm and horrible things happening in the world, to find that much of it comes back to the simple act of breathing. Or lack thereof.

Among other things, breath-holding throws the body's chemistry to the acidic side (which we are finding provides an ideal breeding ground for viruses and many forms of cancer); it creates imbalance in the oxygen/carbon dioxide/nitric oxide relationship (nitric oxide having a huge role in fighting infections, transmitting messages between nerve cells, and mediating the inflammation response).

Another fascinating consequence of hindered breathing is the loss of a normal sense of satiety.

In other words, the inner prompts that tell us when we're hungry are distorted as a result of how shallow breathing triggers our 'fight-or-flight' mode. The body becomes compulsive and we tend to over-consume, craving and reaching for anything available - food, information, visuals  ... constantly hitting the 'inbox' button for something new to digest.

So, it would seem the treadmill desk (if one could afford the $1,000 or so pricetag) solves the lack of movement and breathing problems. You can even sync your machine to an app that will measure your distance traveled, calories consumed, heart rate and more, since you don't have enough already to glue your attention to a screen. (Does anyone else here see the irony in this?)

I'm imagining possible upgrades: how to replace the rubber belt with grass, and install an aromatherapy dispenser that emits the scent of fresh air. Maybe, too, a solar panel can be attached so it could be moved out to the deck or lawn.

A little snark? Yeah, guilty, as charged. I guess I would rather see us moving back toward nature itself, than trying to be more creative with our nature-simulators. We devise more gadgets to make our addiction to gadgets healthier. We're only having this conversation to begin with, due to the brilliant convenience of technology.

Well, that's enough irony for one day. Time to get off my own tookus and go play outside.  


*For more about the 'screen apnea' research and other fascinating perspectives on the perils of our high-tech gadgets, refer to the book, "Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind".

And, now, grab your Quisp and enjoy: