Aches are reminder of lessons of strenuous projects soon forgotten

You might want to sit down before you read this. Actually, you might want to stand up before you read this.

It was the first day of really warm weather since last fall, so Becky decided that we needed to get cracking on some of those outdoor cleanup projects that needed to be tackled. Out we marched to the meadow below our house with a wheelbarrow and an assortment of cutting, pruning and raking tools.

We attacked the fallen trees with chainsaw gusto; we lopped branches giving no quarter; we were merciless as we fell upon the tangles of multiflora rose and other nonnative invaders which encroach on our property like an indefatigable army.

Afterward, as the fog of war was lifting, we smiled with grimy faces while we raked, gathered and piled high the fallen remnants of our fierce struggle.

I got out of bed the next morning with my back aching in that old familiar way which reminds me, “You are no longer the guy from 20 years ago who could do such prolonged, strenuous labor without paying a price.” (Come to think of it, even 20 years ago I couldn’t do such work without paying the lower-back penalty. Why is it so hard for me to remember that?)

I knew from the past what works for me: carefully stretching, ice and heat, ibuprofen. I tried to breathe and relax and move even if just a little bit. It is a slow process, and I resigned myself to waiting it out.

Sitting for even a short time made my pain worse, so I found myself standing up as I read the newspapers, wrote and went about the day. The car seat was a challenge when Becky and I drove to see the g-kids, so I stood at one of those tall tables at the restaurant when we treated them to their favorite fast food.

All the avoidance of sitting in chairs made me remember an article I had read recently.

I stood at my computer as I tracked down the Washington Post article from January. Writer Laura Geggel reported on a study showing, “People who sit too much during the day are at an increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life spans, even if they exercise…”

“So, in a way,” I reasoned in a lemonade-out-of-lemons way, “my sore back is probably prolonging my life.”

The study was actually a survey of 47 other studies showing the relationship between sitting and mortality. The researchers found that the average person spends more than one-half of every day at the desk, in front of a TV, at a computer screen, at the dinner table or just sitting around.

Curiously, even people who exercised regularly faced some negative health risks if they also sat too much. The study didn’t define what “too much” sitting might be, but the lead researcher, Aviroop Biswas, said, “If you sit for more than eight hours a day, that is probably linked to a lot of negative health effects.”

My wife will tell you I never sit still for very long. Partly it is because I am forgetful. When I sit down to read or do some work, I am constantly hopping up to get the paper or pencil I forgot or the book I need for the project.

But partly it is because I just can’t seem to stay seated. It is very hard for me to watch movies because I get too antsy and need to get up and move around. It has always been that way for me. It was a real problem when I was a student in elementary school, let me tell you.

My back is already feeling better, which is a good thing. I am eager to get busy. Besides Becky’s outdoor projects, I have a list of my own to work through.

Who knows? When it is completed, I might even find time to sit and relax.