An Outdoor View: Don’t just sit there

According to WebMD, in 2014, new studies found that sitting for long hours is linked to worse mental health, a higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes, and a higher risk of being disabled. And yet, Americans seem to be sitting more than ever before.

Much of the sitting we do stems from our obsession with high-tech gadgets. My particular pet peeve is cell phones in all their guises. I just might be the only person on earth who doesn’t have a cell phone. In past columns, I’ve railed against them and how they intrude on our peace and privacy, and how you can maim or kill yourself and others by using one while driving. But it’s all been for nothing. Despite my dire warnings, there now are almost 7 billion cell phone subscriptions, about one for every person on earth. Astoundingly, this explosion happened in little more than 20 years.

Our obsession for gadgetry doesn’t bode well for the future of the human race. I don’t know how bad things will get, but here’s how bad they are right now.

According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, male college students were found to be spending an average of eight hours per day on their cell phones, while female students were spending 10.

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The scene is The Oyster Bar, an upscale restaurant with a view of Puget Sound that helps justify spending 150 bucks on lunch for two, if you like the other one enough. Warm sunshine streams through the window, causing me to think it would be a fine day to be out on the water.

Four men come in and sit down at a nearby table. Judging by their looks and demeanor, they’re related. Grandpa and grandsons, I guess. The “kids” are probably in their 30s. They order. A few minutes later, all four men are completely engrossed in their own little world, their mobile phones. It’s not that they’re showing each other photos, or sharing a funny video. They’re just silently staring at their mobile screens, thumbs and fingers busily texting, checking e-mails, playing games or whatever they do with these things nowadays.

If one of them had pulled out his cell phone, I’d have chalked it up to rudeness or some dire emergency, but when I saw all four of them staring at their laps, and doing it for several minutes, I realized how low on the Good Manners Scale we had plunged. It was like they were saying to one another, “My cell phone is more interesting than you are.”

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On a charter boat 10 miles about of Homer, with six of us fishing for halibut in one of the most scenic places on earth, I’m the only one who isn’t talking on a cell phone.

■ ■ ■

I’m standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a light so I can cross a street. Right in front of my unbelieving eyes, a woman drives completely through the intersection without once looking up from her cell phone.

I hope someone sends her this message: According to the National Safety Council, 1 in 4 car accidents are caused by people using cell phones while driving.

Incidentally, statistics show that texting causes only 5 percent of the accidents. Most are caused by drivers who are distracted by cell-phone conversations.

■ ■ ■

Statistically, if you’re an Alaskan sitting at a table with four other Alaskans, one of you is obese. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the U.S. has tripled. One in three American kids is obese.

I don’t need a study to tell me that people who spend too much time sitting while using their computers, mobiles and other electronic devices tend to be overweight. I only need to look in a mirror.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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