Even if you try to eat healthy and even if you are maintaining a healthy weight, you most likely are doing something that is extremely detrimental to your health. You probably do it for hours upon hours each day and don’t give it a second thought.
What’s the dangerous habit? Sitting! Individuals spend record amounts of time sitting now and it may be killing us. Even if you fit in regular exercise time each week, if you are spending the rest of your time plopped down in a chair then you are at risk.
According to the Institute for Medicine and Public Health, it’s likely that you spend a stunning 56 hours per week sitting on your bum. That’s an average of eight whopping hours per day idle in your seat.
A study from Australian researchers published two years ago found that spending more than four hours a day in front of a computer or television was associated with a doubling of serious heart problems, even among people who exercised regularly.
Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, concurs. She says “for people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”
Wow, that is staggering. And most likely comes as quite a shock to most. After all, we’ve been presented with guidelines that urge us to participate in three hours of brisk exercise a week in order to stay fit. If we do that, then we pat ourselves on the back and feel we have met our goals.
But based on this surprising data related to sitting, we can’t just meet our weekly exercise goals and then sit back. We must evaluate our entire daily physical activity efforts.
“Independent of weight and independent of physical activity and all of these other things that can lead to long-term health problems, the more we sit, the more likely that bad things happen in the body,” says Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C.
Garry Sigman, MD, director of the pediatric obesity program of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., agrees. “We evolved from a place where we needed to walk around a lot and not sit still to survive, and now in modern society, there is more opportunity where we sit and that is not healthy for more than one reason,” he says.
So, we must find a way to return to our ancestral beginnings while living in our modern world. For thousands of generations our environment demanded nearly constant physical movement in order to survive. We may not have that same survival need today but if we want to live a long, healthy life then we should return to that survival mode.
Here are some ways to slash our sitting times significantly and to move well beyond just our scheduled weekly exercise time.
- Watching t.v.This is a pretty obvious change. Stop watching so much t.v. We almost always sit when viewing the television. So, if you just can’t break ties with your much-loved weekly show, then at least modify your viewing time by watching while on a treadmill, or while standing.
- If you have a desk job, see if your company would be willing to give you a working treadmill work station.
- At your job, suggest walking meetings. Instead of the years-old tradition of meeting in a conference room and plopping down for hours on end, suggest taking your group meeting outdoors for a walk. You’ll be amazed how your brain can think outside-of-the-box too when your body is moving. It’s a win-win for both body and mind.
- Don’t just plop down in a fold up chair at your kids’ weekend sport activities. Stand or even pace throughout the game.
- Don’t send a co-worker an email or call them, walk to their desk and stand to discuss pertinent business.
- Instead of sitting on your couch while chatting on the phone with a friend, pace throughout your house.
- Don’t spend hours seated while playing video games. Enjoy an active version like Wii or Kinect.
- Set your phone timer to remind you to get up every 10 minutes, even if just for one minute. That can have significantly positive effects. Once you master this habit, consider changing it to a one minute break every five minutes that pass.
- If you have a disability that inhibits you from standing, please talk to a physician/physical therapist for movement ideas specific to your individual needs.
Copyright 2013 Lynn Bode