And bend and stretch and rack those tips and run to the water bath to rescue your samples and walk to the fridge to put them away and lift that big heavy bottle of isopropanol onto your bench and run to the store room to get more tips and rack those tips…
When I worked at the bench, it didn’t feel like a particularly active job, especially when compared to Mr E Man’s. I never got winded, or came home feeling physically exhausted, or found myself with sore joints or aching muscles the day after a long experiment. All those seemingly little things really added up to significant calorie expenditure, though, a fact I didn’t appreciate until after I moved from a postdoc to a desk job and pretty much immediately starting putting on weight (OK, so all the food that seemed to pretty much constantly be on offer in that office – leftover sandwiches and cookies from meetings, birthday cakes, random baking donated by awesome colleagues – didn’t help, either. Those lab health & safety guidelines can be a real pain in the arse, but banning food from the labs really helps people stay slim!).
Almost everyone else I know who’s made the switch from bench to desk experienced the same phenomenon; sitting at a desk typing and drinking tea just doesn’t burn as many calories as standing at a bench, moving around the lab to use different pieces of equipment, and moving around the building to use the tissue culture suite, dark room, or other labs’ kit. (I’ve also found that sitting all the time has exacerbated the lower back / sacroiliac problems that started in grad school, but that’s a whole other story).
I’m currently on a health kick, and have managed to lose a leeeetle bit of weight1 in the last few weeks, thanks to a revolutionary strategy of consuming fewer calories2 and expending more3. It’s a good start, and my will power has been encouragingly strong as long as I remember to keep my work food stash well stocked with fruit! Now fully aware of how seemingly inconsequential movements add up with repetition, I’m also trying to move around more: I’m taking the stairs instead of the lift; only getting as much water as I need for one cup of tea (rather than filling the whole kettle and boiling it multiple times), so I have to run downstairs to the kitchen and back more often; standing up and stretching once or twice an hour; and I’m thinking of buying a big bouncy ball to sit on instead of a chair.
I’m also thinking of making and marketing a “lab-fab abs” exercise DVD, featuring cheerful, fit and healthy students and postdocs wearing lab coats and performing simulated lab tasks in time to music.
D’ya think it’ll catch on?
1) inferred from better-fitting clothes; I have never owned a set of scales in my life.
2) smaller breakfasts, healthier lunches, no snacks other than fruit (and one cookie or equivalent per week), red meat no more than once every two weeks, no desserts, no alcohol on weeknights if we’re eating in rather than going out (i.e. most weeknights). I eat what I want on Friday nights and on Saturdays.
3) after a few months of laziness I’m starting off with pilates and hand weights, and cycling more often and on hillier routes. I’m planning to re-introduce short runs, circuit training, and swimming over the next few weeks.