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my energy shortage

December 10, 2012
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I’ve done some reading that suggested that some of my issues with feeling twice my age (low energy level, getting winded far sooner than I should, feeling ‘breathless’ for no apparent reason) might stem from how extraordinarily sedentary my life has become.

I wake up around the same time every morning (09:40), but I typically lie in bed thinking for a while before getting up. Two nights a week, Spouse and I get groceries at the supermarket. In the intervening eight hours, though, and also afterward, I don’t need to do anything. When the weather is mild, I often go for a walk, but that only affects 60 to 90 minutes. The rest of the time—for the last 3 years—I’ve been sitting or lying down. Very often in front of my laptop (which raises other issues).

It turns out that sitting or reclining for hours and hours every single day, even if you exercise, weakens your heart. But not in a way that’s easily picked up by cardiac tests, because I’ve had those, and they didn’t find anything. I thought I might have asthma, or decreased lung function, but my doctor disagreed. None of the tests I underwent showed anything wrong. But neither did anyone ever ask me how many hours a day I was sitting.

So anyway, in mid-November, I decided to stand and/or walk around for at least two hours every day through the end of 2012. Since it’s better for your heart if you stand up at least every hour (apparently every 30 minutes is better still), I first thought of standing up every hour for 5 minutes, and filling the rest of the time with walking. But ultimately, I decided on breaks of at least 10 minutes every waking hour (that I remembered). I’m tracking everything in my daily calendar, so I can quickly check my progress (or lack thereof). I’m usually awake for around 15 hours, so as long as I stood up and walked around for 10 minutes for 12 of those hours, I would meet my goal. And that’s what happened for the first two weeks. It was so ridiculously easy, I was bored with it.

I set a new goal of 2.5 hours every day. Strangely, just an extra 30 minutes has been a lot more difficult, and I’ve been struggling with the new goal for the last two weeks. The first week, I averaged 148 minutes per day (just 2 minutes under my target), but the 2 days out of 7 that I missed the mark, I did so by a least an hour. (On the plus side, I was standing or walking for a total of 1,040 minutes, which is 17-1/3 hours.) I did better last week. I averaged 151 minutes per day standing and walking, but I still missed the mark 2 days out of 7.

Since I began this project, I did notice having more energy. Until yesterday, though, I hadn’t noticed that I didn’t feel breathless anymore. Well, I did feel breathless yesterday. Saturday was a day I missed my goal (by 90 minutes), and Sunday started out fairly logy, as I woke up with a headache. So I made myself get up every hour, doing more than usual, until I surpassed the daily goal.

Then I stood for 50 minutes, reading, very early this morning, getting today’s goal off to a great start. I already have 2 hours 20 minutes, so I will reach my goal next hour. I don’t feel breathless today. I have enough energy to fidget, which I normally do almost constantly. (I think it’s part of being kinesthetic.)

I’d like to be able to dance again. I haven’t had the energy to spare for it in at least a year.

Once I get the hang of 2.5 hours per day, I’ll increase my goal, probably in 30 minute increments.

12.12.12 Edited to add: Saw this article on Twitter – Research suggests sitting at your desk as harmful as smoking cigarettes

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Siderea permalink
    December 10, 2012 18:19

    Huh. Fascinating. Maybe I should try that. I’m glad to hear it’s working so well for you.

    • December 10, 2012 21:40

      Yeah, I feel much better physically, doing this. But I feel better mentally too, now that I see that I could figure out the problem myself, better than my doctor, and start fixing it.

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