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Bob Wooten: Hazards of sitting too long

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Bob Wooten

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Just standing up shouldn't be noisy or painful, but earlier this week it was a little of both.

Needing to check with a co-worker about the layout for the next day's newspaper, I rolled the chair away from my desk, stood and heard something akin to a bundle of dry twigs crunching underfoot. The twinge that ran along my backside from hamstring to shoulder was almost sharp enough to bring a tear.

Stretching and trying to work out the kinks, I knew I'd done it again -- sat so long that the moving parts had nearly fused.

Such things happen when all you have to do is swivel from one task to another.

I had started the morning by reading my overnight email traffic, messages on everything from work flow in the newsroom and coverage plans for the day to the political propaganda and Internet scams that had slipped through the spam filter.

Then I paid visits to the various newspaper websites I check every day. More reading.

Next there was a story to edit for our Valley Scene section. More reading.

I had just finished that chore when the phone rang, a call from an old friend at another newspaper. We had a nugget of genuine business to discuss, then moved on to the more pressing business of gossiping and grousing.

Then came the unnerving snap, crackle and pop from my spinal column.

I once read that people who work at a desk all day should make a point of rising every 45 minutes, stretching and even taking a short stroll to avoid such problems. Toting it all up, however, I realized I'd been in my chair for close to two hours.

It was a sharp reminder that one of the chief hazards of newspaper work is its sedentary nature, at least for those of us manacled to a desk.

It's not so much of an issue for reporters and photographers, the people who are out in the community gathering information and images. They spend a lot of time on the move.

For editors, it's a different story. Much of their day is spent in front of a computer or sitting in meetings. No wonder there's an old joke about editors growing pear-shaped over the years.

I was reminded of that biting pain in my back a couple of days later during our afternoon news meeting when an Associated Press story was pitched for the front page. The piece eventually carried the headline "Weighing cancer risks, from cellphones to coffee."

The gist of the article was that current health concerns about blabbing on cellphones, drinking coffee and using plastic foam cups are probably overblown. People are at greater risks, experts suggest, from sitting at a desk all day. People like newspaper editors, for instance.

It doesn't help that many editors also spend a lot of time sipping coffee and pressing cellphones to their ears.

As we adjourned our meeting, I was reminded of something else: It was high time for me to stand up and shuffle around the office a little.

• Bob Wooten is the managing editor of the Daily. Contact him at 800-296-5137 or at bwooten@nvdaily.com.

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