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Doc, here. I don't think the article is sensationalist at all. Here's a quick list of basic steps I recommend

* standing desk: I love mine. 2x6 legs, 2x4 connecters, $50 at Home Depot, and 4 hours of work -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/niels_olson/5097452401/lightbox...

* live close enough to work to walk or ride. Ride to the train or ferry if necessary. (I ride 17 miles, take a train, then another 4 miles)

* Move to Southern California. I'm not kidding.

* Strength:

50 low crunches, 5n pushups, m half-down pullups

50 side crunches, 5(n-1) pushups, m-2 half-down pullups

50 crunches, 5(n-2) pushups, m-4 half-down pullups

50 opposite side crunches, 5(n-3) pushups, m-6 half-down pullups

50 crunches

Vary n and m to ability

* Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Michael Pollan, Unhappy Meals (Food, Inc; King Corn, and Omnivore's Dilemma condensed into one essay) --http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t....

Join the Slow Food movement: http://www.slowfood.com/about_us/eng/manifesto.lasso

Four books I'd like to see in every kitchen:

* Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (number one among vegetarians, but also the vegetable cookbook everyone should have) -- http://www.amazon.com/Vegetarian-Cooking-Everyone-Deborah-Ma...

* Mark Bittman, Fish (If you can't cook fish after this, kill yourself) -- http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Complete-Guide-Buying-Cooking/dp/...

* Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (unrivaled, in depth, the go-to resource for food hackers) -- http://www.amazon.com/Food-Cooking-Science-Lore-Kitchen/dp/0...

* Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (the original food hacker) -- http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Art-French-Cooking-Vol/dp/03...

But, have you factored in the decreased life expectancy associated with biking 17 miles a day on the streets of Southern California? :-) Here in the Bay Area, we have bike lanes, and drivers that actually stop for you.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, AKA the Big Orange Book, is fantastic. The mushroom risotto recipe is to die for.

Having biked North, South, and Middle San Diego for years, we have bike lanes, drivers that stop, and fewer days of cool weather than SF :-). In fact, having been to SF, I don't recall as many bike lanes there as here in SD. I suppose we'd have to measure to really know.

San Diego has bike lanes everywhere where they're not needed, but as soon as you get to a narrow section of road or an intersection they disappear. It can easily add several miles onto a trip if you are unable to take the freeway. Many destinations are also build on the top of mesas, and because the place is so car-oriented things are spread out to a ridiculous degree.

I bike commute here, but it's maybe probably less practical or convenient than when I was commuting to downtown Pittsburgh or lower Manhattan. My commute would be nontrivial for someone of normal fitness & not much experience on a bicycle: 20 miles round-trip, 2000 feet of climbing, a portion along Interstate 5.

2000 vertical feet of hills or 2000 feet of cumulative elevation? That sounds like a lot for 10 miles, some of which is on I5... I gain only 800 feet total elevation and that's going 17 miles straight inland along the 56 from the Sorrento Valley station to the 15. For context, the Ramona pass is only 1853 feet above sea level.

What? You can ride on I5? Even if it were allowed it seems really scary.

  > * Move to Southern California. I'm not kidding.
I don't think that SoCal has the space to fit the entire world (or even the nation). I would normally just assume this is tongue-in-cheek, but you said that you weren't kidding.

Fair enough. Someplace with a similar climate: sunny and comfortable year-round.

You say this because it is easier to get out, or because you believe harsh weather shortens lives?

It's easier to get out. I have no evidence that harsh weather shortens lives, although there was a study that used rainfall in northwest counties as a proxy increased sedentary inactivity, and showed a linear relationship between bad weather and increasing ADHD diagnoses.

You think being in Southern California will help with "sedentary inactivity"? As the song says, nobody walks in LA:


Seriously, the streets are pretty much deserted in LA--most people are driving and those who aren't, are on a bus. The normal bits of exercise and fresh air that a person might get in an east coast city are not something most people experience in LA. Or in many parts of California. If you're not the sort who makes time for the gym or outdoor activity, you're not going to be in good shape (literally and figuratively).

FWIW, btw, there's this NY Times blog post which suggests New Yorkers are healthier than the norm (though it suggests that the walking may not be so significant...but who knows--all that tramping up and down stairs for the subway, running for the bus and just walking around town might make a difference): http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/new-york-citys-...

Then, of course, there are the mental/emotional aspects of living in places that are more socially-oriented (e.g. NYC) vs. those that are not (e.g. LA)...

So, all in all, I'm not so sure that Southern California is necessarily such a panacea :-)

Your post reminded me of a quote from the movie Crash I thought I'd share.

"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

The mayor of LA recently got his elbow shattered while riding in LA. Maybe I should tighten the parameters to "San Diego"? I here SF is nice, but doesn't it get a bit nippy in the winter?

If you're looking for "easy to get out", Silicon Valley stays much warmer than SF, as we have the Santa Cruz mountains to guard us from the Pacific fog.

Shoveling snow is a great workout.

If you read the article, the point is not about occasional work-outs. I shoveled plenty of snow as a kid in Omaha. Snow deep enough we could dig tunnels. It doesn't compare to 40 miles a day on a bike.

  > linear relationship between bad weather and increasing ADHD diagnoses
bad weather != sedentary inactivity

That linear relationship could just as easily be due to something like vitamin D deficiency, SAD, environmental factors of growing up in such an environment, etc.

Good list!

Potential errata: crunches may damage your spine[1], fish may be full of heavy metals and corexit.

[1] http://www.prevention.com/hurtyourbackhabits/list/5.shtml http://www.rainbowskill.com/health-secrets/best-exercises-fo...

[2] http://faculty.virginia.edu/metals/cases/nelson2.html

What do you recommend for people with weak joints? I can't stand for long periods of time as my ankle gets really sore. I've done some exercises at the gym to work on balance.

Try isometric holds to build up the joints. I've had a lot of success with them. The key reference on the subject: http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Hoffman/ic-adv/ic-ad...

Why would isometrics work better than range-of-movement(using weights and cardio) in this case? When doing static exercises you are simply pushing until you're stopped by your weakest link, while in range-of-movement, momentum from other muscles can help you cheat on the weak areas, so that even though you expose many angles of contraction, not all of them are always fully contracted. Hence you can end up with spots of underdevelopment.

I'm pretty sure static holds also help to counteract the sitting problem, since flexing has a very relaxing effect on stiff muscles - it would follow that flexing them as much as possible is an even better idea!

I recommend you get evaluated by a physician if you are concerned about your physical ability to stand for prolonged periods. Seriously. I don't know if you've had ankle surgery, Gaucher's disease, or something else. In general, standing, though, is great strength training for those joints.

Not New York? No cars, you know.

Can you describe "half-down pullups"? Do you just mean pulling yourself up from a half-hanging position, rather than hanging completely from the bar before beginning the pullup?

Either half, though I usually do the top halfs, which works the smaller muscle groups that you really want to build. If you watch people struggling for that last pullup, they usually fail in the top half. The point is that a single pull-up is a tremendous amount of work through a large range of motion, so reps are tough to come by. Doing halves lets you get more reps. 16 half-ups is better than 6 full-ups.

The list is really helpful. Thanks for sharing it.

If someone was unable to get a standing desk, do you think kneeling at a normal desk might be better than sitting all the time?

I tried one of those kneeling chairs once. I found that my weight on my knees pressed the cushion fabric and the fabric of my pants into my skin uncomfortably.

Maybe you could get a bar, like this one for $229:


Work on it, or use it as a bar when you have company over. Throw some casters on the bottom, and you can easily move it around.

Try kneeling for more than a short time - your knees will probably hate you. But you can still take short regular breaks to get up from your desk, change your position, make sure your setup is as ergonomically correct as possible, etc.

Any recommendations on a chair for a standing desk?

I can't tell if your being sarcastic or not, but I have a chair at my stand-up desk. It is a cheap chair for a drafting table (it sits high). I stand about 70-80% of the time and use the chair for the rest.

Edit: Like this one http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/181-7379211-8663135?asi...

Thanks for the info. I wasn't being sarcastic, I just couldn't think of the term 'drafting chair'.

I recommend against a chair :-)

I've recently migrated to a standing desk after doing a nasty back injury about a month ago. I physically couldn't sit...or rather couldn't move to and from the sitting position.

However, I found fairly quickly that I needed to get a stool for occasional sitting. If you've been in a desk job for 15 years like me, going to a standing work position is killer. Worse for me was I found that I couldn't think standing up! I had to sit to think. I think it's important as a transition, otherwise you'll most likely go back to a sitting desk after 2 weeks.

A month or so later and I don't use the chair nearly as much, and I'm actually enjoying getting sore feet BEFORE my back hurts.

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