Walk This Line: ‘It’s Been Said That Sitting is the New Smoking’
It was one of those classic National Public Radio driveway moments. I had just returned home after fetching an allegedly healthy burrito, my solo dinner what with my wife away on business. Yet I hesitated to fully power down my car, go inside and devour my fast food find.
Bill Gifford, author of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying), was being interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” And I was so thoroughly enthralled with this fascinating conversation that I was completely oblivious to the savory aroma of carnitas that was slowly engulfing me and my Miata’s cozy cabin. Nerdy but true.
Then Gifford made the comment that, intuitively, my better self must have been waiting for:
“So it’s been said that sitting is the new smoking.”
Really? I’d not heard that. But it instantly rang true. And, as is so often the case, I was once again thinking about golf.
A Foot Soldier for the Game
Though I’ve never come right out and said it in this space, I am a big proponent of playing golf on foot. Actually, I’m kind of annoyingly adamant about it. If the course can be walked, I walk it. If carts are mandatory, with rare exception, I won’t play it. As such, it’s no accident that this blog is devoted to the restorative powers of true links golf. At such venues, it’s the foot soldiers—not the panzers on parade—who rule.
As I see it, walking is mostly the point of the, well, exercise. After all, over the four hours it generally takes to complete 18 holes, only about 15 minutes are spent swinging a club and hitting a ball. The vast majority of the time is devoted to getting from one shot to the next. Do that in a cart/buggy (for my UK readers) and you risk zipping by the game’s deepest lessons. Conversely, if you’re able to downshift and take it one step at a time, golf can serve as a form of meditation. Settle into that “in the moment” state and your chances for mental—if not emotional—nourishment rise exponentially. Oh, and you might even score better, too.
Walking is one of the core components that make golf such a worthwhile pursuit, helping us to break free from our daily routines. You know the drill. We sit in our cars commuting to the day job. We sit at our desks at the office. We sit in our easy chairs back home, our psyches surrendering to the nefarious allure of our flat screen TVs.
But when we play golf, we’re encouraged to set aside that sedentary existence—if only for a little while—and walk. To stand upright and place one foot in front of the other, allowing our bodies to operate the way they were engineered. What a concept!
And now I had Gifford telling me that my devotion to this radical behavior was not only good for my soul, but could help me live a longer and more health-filled life. A wee bit of follow-up research only underscored his point.
Our Chairs Are Killing Us
The phrase Gifford referred to was first coined by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and the inventor of the treadmill desk. He has a book, too, entitled appropriately enough Get Up! In it, he makes the compelling case that our chairs—including those cushy cart seats—are killing us.
“We have created for ourselves a modern way of living that clashes with the way we’re meant to be,” Dr. Levine writes. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Something to think about the next time you play golf and opt for the cart/buggy. Now, I should clarify that if doing so is the only way you can get out there, then have at it. Some golf is better than none. God willing, I’ll live long enough to face that moral dilemma myself. However, if you’re physically capable of walking, yet choose to ride, I respectively submit that you might want to reconsider.
“The science is not refuted,” says Dr. Levine.
And, I might add, the philosophy of it is pretty darn compelling, too.