Science Says Sitting Is Killing Us - So It’s IT To The Rescue!

By The Honorable John P. Gustafson, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio

A recent study, published in the January 20th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine (on news stands now!) says that sitting for long periods is associated with one of our least favorite things – early death. Some news articles have gone so far as to compare the health risks of sitting at a desk all day with smoking.

If you are like me, news like this makes you want to do something. . . . But not something as radical as getting a stand up desk, or even more unthinkable, a treadmill desk. (Now, when they come out with the hamster wheel desk, maybe I’ll consider it.)

The problem with sitting for long periods at work is traceable to one major problem – we’re working. Unlike smokers, who feel the periodic need/urge to take a break for a cigarette, we get lost in our fascinating bankruptcy work and forget to get up and move around once in a while.

This is where IT can leap into your office and save the day! There are several computer programs out there that can give you periodic reminders to get up out of your chair and stretch, do jumping jacks, or go for a glass of water (which has the additional advantage of providing an insistent reminder to get up again . . . after processing).

One program that I have tested is “Breaktaker”, a very small free program that runs in the background. Click here for a brief article on Breaktaker.

The article links you where I downloaded my version of Breaktaker:

Periodically, at an interval you can set, Breaktaker pops up a message asking if you’d like to get up and take a break. On my home computer, I set Breaktaker for alert me every 45 minutes. You can either click “I did it”, or “no thanks”.

I like the program, but some of the suggested exercises – like neck rolls – seem a little too sedentary. It also frequently says “bonjour” on the pop up, which takes me back to junior high French class.  Not a good place. Other than that, I find Breaktaker to be a great addition to my computer.

On the other hand – while inspirational – clicking a desktop link to “Stayin’ Alive” tends to start annoying those around you after a week or so.

There are a couple of other free programs which claim to basically do the same thing – periodically remind you to get up and move:

  • StretchClock appears to do a bit more – suggesting “no-sweat exercises”.

Now, for those of you with government jobs who are reading this, you are probably thinking – “I hope that poor fool didn’t download a non-government approved program onto his chambers computer!”

Of course, I did not. Instead, I talked to my IT guy – Bill – who told me about a U.S. government approved computer program called “StretchWare”. This spiffy 2004 program will pop up a reminder to either “stretch now” or allow you to delay your stretch for 5 to 15 minutes. Then, it will suggest specific stretching exercises using computer graphics you haven’t seen since . . . well, since 2004.

Like Breaktaker, StretchWare allows you to set how often you want to be reminded to stretch. You can also either enable or disable a tone when the reminder pops up.

So, don’t just sit there – call IT and tell them you want to live long and prosper!


DSC01212_newJohn P. Gustafson was appointed United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Ohio in April 2014. In his former life, he was a bankruptcy law clerk, an associate and partner in a law firm representing both debtors and creditors, a solo bankruptcy practitioner representing debtors, banks and trustees, the staff attorney to a Chapter 13 trustee, and since October 1, 2007 he has been the Standing Chapter 13 Trustee for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division. Judge Gustafson regularly writes and speaks on a variety bankruptcy issues.

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