Junior Year: New Worries (9/20/13)

Junior year brings a lot of concerns

Last week my younger son started his junior year of high school.

Everyone will tell you—even if you don’t ask—that for the college-bound high school student, the junior year is the most intensive and important. One reason for its significance is it’s the last full year of grades an admissions panel reviews when determining a student’s fate.

From September to June, the junior year is filled with standardized tests: PSAT/NMSQT, AP placement tests, SAT subject exams, SAT, ACT, and this doesn’t count the classroom quizzes or college prep courses.

In addition to test-taking, college-bound 11th-graders are expected to create a resume highlighting their high school achievements, including academic and athletic accomplishments, volunteering and community service, awards and honors, work experience, leadership roles, clubs and hobbies.

By the end of the junior year the three Rs no longer represent reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic; instead, they’re replaced by readiness, responsibilities and recommendations.

It’s a lot to worry about, and I worry a lot.

If worrying were an Olympic sport, I’d be the most decorated athlete in history—just ask my husband.

Worrying involves painstaking training and I’ve been practicing daily for almost 20 years; specifically, my training began on June 11, 1994 and intensified on September 29, 1996.

In addition to worrying about my boys, I habitually read health studies—as if I don’t have enough to worry about with a junior in high school shackled by stressful school work and a sophomore in college ensconced in secret fraternity rituals.

Recently I came across this alarming headline: “Sitting is the New Smoking.” We have Dr. Anup Kanodia of Ohio State University to thank for the new health scare. His study coined the catchy phrase and concluded that extended sitting increases the risk of disease and death.

Researchers found Americans sit an average of nine hours a day, and doctors agree this sedentary lifestyle is a modern-day health epidemic. Doctors’ link prolonged sitting to an increase in heart disease, diabetes and cancers of the breast, colon and prostate.

Even gym rats and those engaged in hours of weekly exercise remain at risk. The benefits of exercise are many, but the study found if the majority of waking hours are spent sitting (more than six hours a day), the health benefits of exercise depreciate. The bottom-line is the longer you sit on your bottom the shorter your projected lifespan.

Dr. Kanodia’s assumption that my desk chair is killing me, takes all the fun out of sitting at my computer indulging in online shopping. He’s even made me think twice about sitting for hours gabbing with girlfriends over lunch or long evening escapes to the movie theater to catch the latest blockbuster.

To combat our sedentary ways and fight disease, one scientist suggests trading the cherished office chair for a stability ball.

I find it difficult to chew gum and walk at the same time, so the chances are slim that I could balance on a ball while concentrating at my computer. If I were a circus performer, I’d be on the road with Barnum and Bailey.

For those of us unwilling, or unable, to control the stability ball, experts suggest lacing-up your sneakers and jumping on the growing treadmill desk trend. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel writes while walking on his treadmill, and NBC’s “Today” show personality Al Roker predicts the weather from his walking desk.

Fortunately, I found an article with an obvious and quick cure for the sitting epidemic: get up and move—every 30 minutes. It’s far from revolutionary, but reveals breaks as short as one minute to walk or stretch can interrupt the pattern of sitting and help improve longevity and health.

If only I could find the study proving worrying is a healthy alternative to exercise and standardized 11th grade tests are overrated.


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