The headlining picture (courtesy of Medical Billing and Coding) may be a little drastic, but it got your attention, didn't it? As you read this article, you’re most likely sitting down, have been for a few hours, and will probably continue to for a few more. The average person with an office job sits down for eight hours per day, and I’m sure you would agree that poker players blow that daily average through the roof.
Not only does sitting all day mess up your posture and cause lower-back pain, but Men’s Health recently published an article about how the staff in its office now uses stand-up desks after they came across a study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise research journal. The statistics showed that out of the 17,000 men and women they studied over 13 years, those who sat for most of the day were 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. 54 percent!
You may have read about the extreme gamer who died recently after playing Xbox for 12 hours per day and we’re forever hearing about the risks of long-haul flights causing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) from the hours-on-end of sitting still. DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, commonly in the legs. They are usually extremely painful and can cause the leg to swell. The clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs, which is when it gets really serious. Obviously it’s not the natural action of sitting that is harmful, but it’s the lack of balancing such long periods of inactivity with regular movement.
The human body was built to be physically active, not to sit still all day in front of a computer, drive a car home and then continue to sit in front of the television, all on top of the nightly seven hours of sleep. This widespread inactivity is starting to prove to be seriously dangerous. You may be saying to yourself that this doesn't apply to you because you're a regular gym-goer, however, the lead researcher in the above-mentioned study, Peter Katzmarzyk, told Men's Health that they "see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren’t. Sitting is an independent risk factor." Of course, regular exercise has hundreds of benefits for your health and will certainly contribute towards the prevention of DVT, but taking some extra precautions during those long sessions is highly recommended.
How Can a Poker Player Lower Their Risk of Developing DVT?
Simply making small changes to your daily habits can make a huge difference. Set some rules for yourself. For example, while you’re sitting at your computer, rotate your ankles a few times in both directions to get the blood moving again every time you’re dealt a pocket pair. Curl or press your toes to the floor each time you see a showdown between anyone at your table. When you give or take a bad beat, stand up and stretch. Or when you play a hand badly, “punish yourself” by standing for an entire orbit. Of course, if you’re a live grinder then your rules should adjust in consideration for the less hands seen per hour. Most importantly, drink plenty of water and don’t ask your housemate to grab you that snack on your break so you can sit back and check your Facebook, go and get it yourself and pace around to get your legs moving for the full five minutes. With all of that water you should be drinking, you’ll have no choice but to get up to run to the bathroom on each break anyway!
If you really want to make a serious change for the better, consider investing in a retractable, stand-up desk, that Mashable wrote extensively about earlier this year. You could adjust it on each break so that you sit for an hour, then stand for an hour, and so on. I recently told my boyfriend to do 30 sit-ups per break during his Sunday grind and he loved it. Come to think of it, that actually ended up being one of his most successful Sunday's he's had in a while — just saying.
The Traveling Player
ABC News published a story that really raised my concern as a frequent long-distance traveler and I’ve since become a lot more aware about moving around while in the air. The shocking statistics show that the risk of developing DVT is three times higher for travelers compared to non-travelers – apparently I’m at a 26 percent higher risk for every two hours of airplane travel! So for the grinders who combine long-distance travel in their poker regime, please take extra note! My doctor suggested to take aspirin each time I travel as a blood-thinning precaution, and I wear knee-high compression socks to keep the blood flowing through my legs.
In Simpler Terms...
The Medical Billing & Coding organization created the following infographics, detailing some interesting statistics and advice in the simplest form. If everything I just told you doesn't paint enough of a picture for you, the following surely will.
So each time that five-minute break comes around, or 10-minute break for live tournament players, take full advantage of looking after your health and simply go for a wander, grab yourself a bottle of water and have a good stretch while you're at it. Needless to say, I've been wiggling my feet and toes the entire time I've been writing this article!
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