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'Ted Radio Hour' launches special 6-part series: Body Electric

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Screens, screens everywhere all day long. I mean, you got one eye on the computer, one eye on your phone, another eye on the TV. Soon you realize you've run out of eyes and also time to keep up. Ever wonder what all of those screens are doing to your health? Manoush Zomorodi has. She's the host of NPR's TED Radio Hour and a new NPR series that's launching this week called Body Electric. It's an interactive investigation into the relationship between our technology and our bodies. And Manoush is here to tell us all about it. So we know that sitting is pretty bad for us, but apparently there's a lot more to it.

MANOUSH ZOMORODI, BYLINE: Well, there is, A, and I've spent the last decade reporting on how tech is changing how we think and how we learn. But I don't know. Over the pandemic, like a lot of people, I just felt so drained by all the screen time that I really wanted to understand how is all that tech changing us physically? And the statistics are kind of extraordinary. Since 1950, sedentary jobs have increased by nearly 85%. In the last 20 years, the rate of young people with Type 2 diabetes has doubled. So we are in the midst of a slow-moving health crisis. But also, I mean, we just feel like crap on a daily basis. So here's what some listeners told us.

UNIDENTIFIED NPR LISTENER #1: I find myself sitting. I find myself staring at screens. I'm not moving as much as I could or should.

UNIDENTIFIED NPR LISTENER #2: I tend to just continuously lean further and further and further into the computer screen. You know, I'll be like, hey, you need a break, so stop looking at the big screen, and now it's time to look at the little screen. That's not good.

MARTÍNEZ: Man.

ZOMORODI: OK, so, A, our series gets into why we feel so bad.

MARTÍNEZ: But what are we going to do about it?

ZOMORODI: Ah, well, that brings us to the interactive part of the series. So in their lab, Columbia researchers have found the minimum amount of movement we need so sitting on our butts all day doesn't kill us. Here's Keith Diaz, the head of the project.

KEITH DIAZ: To offset the harms of sitting, you should move every half hour for five minutes. Folks who moved every half hour for five minutes lowered their blood sugar spikes after eating by 60%.

ZOMORODI: Actually, A, I was a participant in that lab study. So one day I sat at a desk and worked for eight hours straight without getting up. Then I went back a week later, and that day they had me get up every 25 minutes and stroll on a treadmill. And when I walked, my blood sugar was cut nearly in half, my blood pressure was down five points, and my mood was way better. And, you know, it was super easy to do in the lab. But what we want to know is can people do this in real life? So NPR is partnering with Columbia University Medical Center to do a study to find out. And if you're listening right now, we would love you to join. The deadline to sign up is Sunday, October 8 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. The Columbia folks are going to give you a certain dose of easy movement every day, and we'll ask you to report back.

MARTÍNEZ: So maybe we should just start right now, right?

ZOMORODI: OK, let's do it.

MARTÍNEZ: Here we go.

ZOMORODI: OK, are you moving?

MARTÍNEZ: I am moving. I am up. I am bending and wiggling.

ZOMORODI: That's good.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it's a little weird because normally I would never, ever do this. OK, so tell people where to go to find out more about this.

ZOMORODI: Go to npr.org/bodyelectric. You'll find our first episode and how to join the study.

MARTÍNEZ: Manoush Zomorodi, host of NPR's TED Radio Hour and the special series Body Electric. We'll be checking in with her over the course of the series to hear how the study is going and how tech is changing our bodies. And, Manoush, thanks a lot.

ZOMORODI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.