Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Kierkegaard’s walkabout cure

Two new findings sound the theme that an oldtime, simple and free – and drug free – approach to health may work with unexpected power

sorenkierkegaard.jpgSoren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and author who lived in Copenhagen in the first half of the nineteenth century, was usually so busy writing when he was home that all visitors were generally sent away by his servant.

In the 1840s, for example, the visiting Norwegian author and feminist Camilla Collett (who had earlier been turned away by Hans Christian Anderson) was informed that Kierkegaard was not at home. When she came back down to the street she glanced up at the apartment window and saw Kierkegaard standing there. Their eyes met, and in their mutual surprise, they nodded spontaneously to each other.

But Kierkegaard was no shut-in. A talkative, friendly fellow once he got out, he used to gear up for his writing by walking all over the city and talking to people he encountered in what he called his daily “people bath”.

“I regard the whole of Copenhagen as one great social gathering,” he wrote.

Walking made him feel good and gave him all kinds of ideas, which he would work out as he walked, often taking hasty leave of whoever he was talking to and rushing home to start work at a desk at which he stood, rather than sat.

“No matter what, do not lose the joy of walking,” he wrote to his sister in-law. “I walk my way to health and away from illness every day. I have walked my way to my best ideas, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it… If a person just continues to walk like this, things will surely go well.”

Well, modern science is now backing up Kierkegaard on this point, even to the tune of finding that exercise helps fight off cancer. Following many studies over the years showing how beneficial walking is simply as exercise, there have been two in the last week showing it helps cure cancer.

This week in JAMA Harvard assistant professor Michelle D. Holmes revealed that walking for an hour a week reduced the risk of death from breast cancer by 20 percent for women with the disease, apparently because it reduces estrogen and also body fat, which has been linked to breast cancer through diet.

While controls were not tight enough to rule out other factors causing the improvement (because whether women in the study exercised was their own choice, so they might have also been the type to eat more vegetables or visit their doctor more often) the results are generally viewed as convincing.

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Exercise a foe of breast cancer

Even walking reduces a patient’s risk of death from the disease, a study says. But post-treatment exercise is easier to suggest than do.

By LISA GREENE, Times Staff Writer
Published May 25, 2005

Most people who exercise for better health think of the obvious advantages: warding off heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.

But exercise has another, more surprising benefit as well: It can help breast cancer patients cheat death, says a study published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Women don’t have to be triathletes. Even walking for an hour a week reduces the risk of death from breast cancer by 20 percent for women already diagnosed with the disease, the study found.

“I hope women with breast cancer consider that exercise may improve their length and quality of life,” said Dr. Michelle D. Holmes, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author.

Exercise also helps prevent breast cancer, other studies have said. But this study found exercise helps women who already have the disease. The news could have a dramatic effect on their lives, since they are likely to exercise less after getting cancer.

Less than one-third of breast cancer survivors get as much exercise as the government recommends.

“The stress of treatment and a life-threatening illness can be very discouraging to women,” Holmes said.

The study is especially important coming just after another study linking lower-fat diets to lower breast cancer recurrence, said Dr. Larry Norton, deputy physician-in-chief for breast cancer programs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“There seems to be a connection between fat in your body, fat in the diet and recurrence of breast cancer,” he said. “It’s very exciting, because it’s something we can do something about.”

More exercise reduces the risk further. The greatest benefit is to women who exercise the equivalent of walking three to five hours per week. Those breast cancer patients reduced their risk of death by 50 percent. Women who exercised harder could spend less time working out for the same benefit.

The study results impressed Clearwater resident Roberta Mindykowski. She has battled breast cancer for nine years. Mindykowski, 60, had a mastectomy nine years ago. Three years ago, her cancer returned, and two years ago she had more surgery.

Exercise after cancer is easier recommended than done. After her latest surgery, Mindykowski said, her energy disappeared.

“It takes a long time to get your stamina back,” she said.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that Mindykowski resumed regular exercise. Now she’s lifting weights, walking on a treadmill, and taking daily breaks to walk in her office parking garage with co-workers.

“Just doing a little bit of exercise makes you feel so well mentally and physically, it can’t do anything but help you,” she said.

The study looked at data from almost 3,000 patients in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1984 and 1998, following them until 2002.

Researchers analyzed how much exercise women reported getting after they were treated for breast cancer. They didn’t include women with the worst prognosis, or women undergoing treatment, since both groups would be less likely to exercise.

Of the study participants, 86 percent survived at least 10 years after diagnosis.

Researchers aren’t sure why women who exercised were more likely to survive. Exercise may help because it lowers the level of estrogen circulating in women’s bodies.

The study found that exercise reduced the risk most for women with the most common kind of tumor, which is stimulated by estrogen. That gives more weight to the idea that the benefits come from affecting estrogen levels, Holmes said.

Other factors also may be at work, Norton said. In the recent diet study, lower-fat diets still affected tumors not stimulated by estrogen. That makes him wonder whether some chemical in fat cells affects breast cancer and that chemical is in turn affected by diet and exercise.

The study’s findings are “fairly convincing,” said Dr. Pamela Munster, breast cancer oncologist at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and assistant professor at the University of South Florida.

Still, the study has limits. Because the women chose whether to exercise, rather than being assigned at random to exercise or not, it’s possible that there was some other difference between the two groups, Munster said. Maybe women who exercise visit their doctors more often, or eat more vegetables.

Researchers tried to account for such factors, Holmes said, but “can’t totally rule it out” that something else might have influenced the results.

Munster would like to see the results confirmed in a randomized trial. But in the meantime, the best bet is to hit the gym, she said.

“Even a woman with breast cancer is still at risk of dying from heart disease,” she said.

Holmes agreed.

“There’s not a lot to lose by exercising,” she said.

Cindi Crisci, 45, of St. Petersburg worked out and watched her diet because her family has a history of heart disease.

Six years ago, Crisci was diagnosed with breast cancer. She walked after her surgeries, through her chemotherapy and her radiation treatments.

“It helped in the healing process,” said Crisci, whose cancer prompted her to get a job with the American Cancer Society. “I firmly believe a positive attitude and staying healthy helped me. … Exercise in general helps the mind, body and soul.”
WHY EXERCISE HELPS

Why would exercise keep breast cancer from coming back, or spreading throughout the body? Researchers aren’t sure. But studies have linked exercise to lower levels of estrogen in the body. And today’s study found that women whose tumors are stimulated by estrogen got even more benefit from exercise. So they believe exercise may help prevent cancer because it lowers estrogen levels.

© 2005 ? All Rights Reserved ? St. Petersburg Times© 2005 ? All Rights Reserved ? St. Petersburg Times

Meanwhile at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.in Orlando, Harvard cancer doctor Jeffrey Meyerhardt announced that an hour’s walk six days a week cut the risk of colon cancer recurrence for patients after surgery by half.

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Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Date: 2005-05-17
URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050517143749.htm
Exercise Reduces Risk Of Recurrence And Death In Early Stage Colon Cancer Patients

ORLANDO, Fla.–Patients treated for early stage colon cancer fared significantly better if they exercised regularly at the level of an hour’s walk six times a week, according to a study to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

A person’s risk of having a cancer recurrence or dying was lowered by 40 to 50 percent in the 2 1/3 to 3 years following surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer, reported a team headed by Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The data (abstract 3534) is from the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALBG) and will be presented during a poster discussion on Tuesday, May 17, 8 a.m. Level 3, 315A.

Although exercise has previously been shown to lower the risk of developing colon cancer, the new findings are the first to demonstrate a benefit for patients who already have the disease.

“There is a growing body of evidence that there are things you can do in addition to chemotherapy for colon cancer survivors to reduce the likelihood that the disease will recur,” says Meyerhardt. “Until now, when doctors were asked by their patients whether they should exercise, some of them probably said it would be a good idea, but it wasn’t a firm recommendation without data to support it.”

The health benefit was found among patients whose activity levels ranked in the top two-fifths of the group, compared to the lowest one fifth. They exercised at a rate of at least 18 MET-hours (metabolic equivalent tasks) per week, which could be attained through jogging two to three hours a week, playing tennis a few times a week, or walking briskly an hour a day six times a week, explains Meyerhardt, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The study involved patients reporting leisure-time physical activity approximately 12-18 months after surgery. The patients belonged to the same group in which a separate study headed by Dana-Farber researcher Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, revealed that regular aspirin use reduce recurrence and death risks by about the same magnitude as exercise.

###

In addition to Meyerhardt, the study’s other authors are Fuchs, Denise Heseltine, BA, and Robert Mayer, MD, Dana-Farber; Donna Niedzwiecki, PhD, and Donna Hollis, MS, CALGB Statistical Center at Duke University Medical Center; Leonard Saltz, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Richard Schilsky, MD, University of Chicago.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.danafarber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

This is the original press rekease:

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Press Releases

May 17, 2005
Exercise reduces risk of recurrence and death in early stage colon cancer patients
Photo of Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH
Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH

ORLANDO, Fla.?Patients treated for early stage colon cancer fared significantly better if they exercised regularly at the level of an hour’s walk six times a week, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

A person’s risk of having a cancer recurrence or dying was lowered by 40 to 50 percent in the 2 1/3 to 3 years following surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer, reported a team headed by Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The data (abstract 3534) is from the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALBG) and will be presented during a poster discussion on Tuesday, May 17, 8 a.m. Level 3, 315A.

Although exercise has previously been shown to lower the risk of developing colon cancer, the new findings are the first to demonstrate a benefit for patients who already have the disease.

“There is a growing body of evidence that there are things you can do in addition to chemotherapy for colon cancer survivors to reduce the likelihood that the disease will recur,” says Meyerhardt. “Until now, when doctors were asked by their patients whether they should exercise, some of them probably said it would be a good idea, but it wasn’t a firm recommendation without data to support it.”

The health benefit was found among patients whose activity levels ranked in the top two-fifths of the group, compared to the lowest one fifth. They exercised at a rate of at least 18 MET-hours (metabolic equivalent tasks) per week, which could be attained through jogging two to three hours a week, playing tennis a few times a week, or walking briskly an hour a day six times a week, explains Meyerhardt, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The study involved patients reporting leisure-time physical activity approximately 12-18 months after surgery. The patients belonged to the same group in which a separate study headed by Dana-Farber researcher Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, revealed that regular aspirin use reduces recurrence and death risks by about the same magnitude as exercise.

In addition to Meyerhardt, the study’s other authors are Fuchs, Denise Heseltine, BA, and Robert Mayer, MD, Dana-Farber; Donna Niedzwiecki, PhD, and Donna Hollis, MS, CALGB Statistical Center at Duke University Medical Center; Leonard Saltz, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Richard Schilsky, MD, University of Chicago.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.danafarber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

Actually, even Kierkegaard’s habit of standing at his desk was a very good thing, exercise-wise. As Denise Grady reported in the New York Times Tuesday, a study of a group of couch potatoes fitted out with speecial underwear to record their every movement, published by James Levine, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic in January in Science made that pretty clear, for it revealed that surprising amounts of calories can be burned off by fidgeting, or simply getting up from the couch.

In January, the scientists here who designed the underwear reported a striking difference in activity levels between lean people and overweight ones. Their study, published in the journal Science, did not involve deliberate exercise, but it measured with the help of the sensors how much people moved about naturally and spontaneously.

The heavier ones tended to sit, while the lean ones were more restless and spent two or more hours a day on their feet standing, pacing and fidgeting. The difference translated into 350 calories a day, enough for the heavy people to take off 30 to 40 pounds a year, or 14 to 18 kilograms a year, if they would get moving.

Standing takes more energy than sitting, and strolling along at just a mile an hour, or 1.6 kilometers an hour, burns twice the calories of sitting.

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The New York Times
May 24, 2005
New Weight-Loss Focus: The Lean and the Restless
By DENISE GRADY

ROCHESTER, Minn. – If you move, they will measure it. If you don’t move, they will measure that, too, along with what you eat. There are no secrets here, at least no metabolic ones. Not only do they have your number – they have 25 million of your numbers.

They, in this case, are scientists at the Mayo Clinic here. And they learn your secrets only if you have been one of the select few to wear a set of underwear with racy-looking cutouts at the crotch and backside, and pockets holding position and motion sensors dangling a half dozen tangled wires.

In January, the scientists here who designed the underwear reported a striking difference in activity levels between lean people and overweight ones. Their study, published in Science, did not involve deliberate exercise, but it measured – with the help of the sensors – how much people moved about naturally and spontaneously.

The heavier ones tended to sit, while the lean ones were more restless and spent two more hours a day on their feet – standing, pacing around and fidgeting. The difference translated into 350 calories a day, enough for the heavy people to take off 30 to 40 pounds a year, if they would get moving.

The researchers believe the tendency to sit still or move around is biological and inborn, governed by genetically determined levels of brain chemicals. And that tendency influences weight – not the other way around, the researchers say.

The Mayo researchers call the type of movement and calorie burning that they study NEAT, for nonexercise activity thermogenesis. The leader of the research team, Dr. James Levine – a nutritionist, an endocrinologist and a professor of medicine – has defined the term as “the energy expenditure associated with all the activities we undertake as vibrant, independent beings.” Those activities include “occupation, leisure, sitting, standing, walking, toe-tapping, guitar playing, dancing and shopping,” he writes. His team has even measured the energy burned in gum-chewing (11 calories an hour, if you chew six pieces at a time).

“This is probably the only place in the world that can do this kind of research,” Dr. Levine said.

Other researchers have praised the work, particularly the team’s painstaking and precise measurements of calories consumed and the way they are burned.

Dr. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, called the Science paper “great,” and added, “I believe the data; it’s done correctly and an interesting set of findings.”

Nonexercise activity can account for a significant portion of the calories burned in a day, anywhere from 15 percent in a sedentary person to 50 percent in someone who is very active. Standing takes more energy than sitting, and strolling along at just one mile an hour burns twice the calories of sitting.

Dr. Levine and his colleagues believe that if scientists can understand nonexercise activity better and identify what drives it, what makes people want to move around, they may be able to harness it to help the millions who are struggling to control their weight.

“Can we really find something to help people?” Dr. Levine asked. “We want to examine how to change people’s NEAT. There is this gap. Can we close it?”

He advocates this approach because the usual weight loss remedies usually fail. People have a hard time sticking with exercise programs and diets, and Dr. Levine argues that the very number of diet books and weight-loss plans is proof in and of itself that none of them work. “If one worked, we’d all be following it,” he said.

Studying activity and metabolism in people and animals has been a lifelong fascination, Dr. Levine said, explaining that he started measuring movement in snails and bacteria during his boyhood in London. He trained in medicine there, came to the Mayo Clinic as a resident in 1992 and then joined the faculty.

Today he runs a research group with a dozen scientists, specialists in physiology, nutrition and computing. They study nonexercise activity not only in obese adults and children, but also in the elderly, people with anorexia nervosa and populations threatened by starvation in Africa and India.

They have even investigated the significance of chubby cheeks, noting that people who deposit fat in their faces tend also to build up harmful stores inside the abdomen, which are linked to heart disease. Some members of the team also work with animals, trying to characterize the rich palette of brain chemicals that control activity levels and weight.

Although he spends most of his time on research, Dr. Levine is still a practicing endocrinologist who treats patients one afternoon a week, and he says he sees firsthand how intractable obesity can be, and what physical and emotional suffering it can cause.

Many of his patients are very obese. One was so heavy she could barely get out of a wheelchair, he said. He suggested an initial goal of simply standing up three times a day, and then trying to walk for 15 seconds at a time. For her, working her way up to two minutes of walking was a major milestone, he said.

Obese people are so stigmatized that even some doctors, perhaps unconsciously, withdraw from them, Dr. Levine said, noting that patients have told him he was the first physician who ever shook their hand or actually examined them.

“The key is to provide a nonjudgmental, compassionate environment,” he said.

The study published in January included 10 lean men and women and 10 slightly obese ones, all of whom described themselves as “couch potatoes” who did not exercise much. The object was to measure and compare their nonexercise activity, and also to determine whether it changed when they were put on special diets that made them gain or lose weight.

They wore the special underwear, which measured posture and movement every half second around the clock for 10 days in a row on several occasions, yielding 25 million points of data on each participant.

To make sure the researchers knew exactly how many calories the subjects were eating, dietitians prepared all their food for weeks at a time, a total of 20,000 meals.

“These studies cost a fortune,” Dr. Levine said. Each costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“Every food item is weighed to within a gram, and each meal costs $30,” he said.

In addition, the 20 participants were paid $6,000 each for their time. And the overweight ones were given advice and personalized plans to help them lose weight.

This was the study that found that the lean subjects spent much more time on their feet than did the obese ones.

What convinced the researchers that the tendency to be inactive led to obesity, and not the other way around, was that the activity levels did not change when the diets were altered to make the obese people lose weight and the lean ones gain it. If the common wisdom were true – that being heavy is what makes people sluggish – then the overweight people should have acted more energetic when they lost weight, and the lean ones should have slowed down when they gained.

But that did not occur.

If activity levels are governed by biology, then it may seem hopeless to try to change them, Dr. Levine acknowledged.

“But the counterevidence to that is, our biology as a species really hasn’t changed in decades and centuries, and yet obesity rates have dramatically increased in the last 15 years,” he said.

Activity levels have declined, and he and many other obesity researchers say that decline, more than increases in eating, is to blame for rises in obesity.

What has changed is the artificial environment: there is far more opportunity today than in the past to be sedentary. And some people may be genetically predisposed to seize that opportunity.

“We all like and dislike different things,” Dr. Levine said. “None of us can quite quantify it.”

In a biological way, not a personal one, he said, obese people seem to like inactivity.

“Given an environment that lets people sit for hours and hours a day, they will,” he said.

A solution, then, may be to change the environment, to make moving around easier and sitting still less convenient.

The team’s recent paper in Science noted, for instance, that in 1920 before cars were common, people in Rochester walked an average of 1.6 miles a day to and from work, which burned about 150 calories a day. Few people do that today; many live too far away to talk to work, but, Dr. Levine suggests, many could build short walks into the day.

This is not a new idea, he acknowledges. Plenty of experts have been advising people to find small, relatively painless ways to burn extra calories, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking at the far end of the lot to make themselves walk a bit.

But for this kind of thing to make a real difference, people would have to commit to changing their habits and their environment. When it comes to this mission, Dr. Levine may be his own best guinea pig.

“If anyone in the world is going to do this it’s obviously going to be me,” he said.

At meetings, he stands instead of sitting. Talking on the telephone, he paces around. In his office he has a treadmill in place of a desk. He got it last year when he saw the data from the study comparing lean people and obese ones.

“My computer is stationed over the treadmill,” he said. “I work at 0.7 miles an hour.”

A stand-up desk might seem simpler, but he prefers the treadmill.

“Standing still is quite difficult,” he said. “You have a natural tendency to want to move your legs. Zero point seven is the key. You don’t get sweaty, you can’t jiggle too much. It’s about one step a second. It’s very comfortable. Most people seem to like it around 0.7.”

He has installed a second treadmill alongside his own, and he encourages visitors to hop on and stroll while they talk to him. It takes some getting used to, but, he says, envious colleagues at Mayo have been clamoring for treadmill desks.

“Walking at work, first of all it’s addictive,” he said. “It’s terribly good fun. I actually feel happier, particularly in the afternoon. You might think you come home exhausted, but you don’t. You come home energized.”

For him, the treadmill has eliminated the afternoon slump, when a lot of people feel sleepy and crave candy bars or caffeine.

“I’ve become convinced we really can generate an office environment where people are on the move and are happier,” he said.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

All in all, Kierkegaard probably spent more time at his desk than the average office worker today. Yet, although he ignored sports and knew nothing of gyms, he evidently knew how to keep trim and healthy.

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