Just like food or breathing, movement is critical to life. The body was designed to move and many body and mind functions suffer if we remain sedentary. Our doctors and other healthcare providers should literally write out a prescription for “physical activity” to treat many of our health problems, including pain. Better yet, physical activity prevents many health problems. If you still have doubt...
... 13 studies reported by the Mayo Clinic concluded that “We are sitting ourselves to death” and “Those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005).
We live in a society that sits too much. Sitting is now considered more dangerous than smoking (https://www.startstanding.org/sitting-new-smoking/#extended). “ More than 25% of U.S. adults sit for 8 hours/day or more. Almost half of those people do not exercise at all and here is a list of what results with sitting too much:
* Blood flow slows and of course fat builds up in the blood vessels = Sitting too much leads to 147% increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke
* Insulin resistance occurs = Sitting too much leads to 112% increased risk of diabetes (https://theheartfoundation.org/2019/08/10/is-sitting-the-new-smoking/)
* Results in nearly 50% increased risk of death from any cause
* Leads to obesity = More than two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight and/or obese, which leads to increased morbidity and mortality.
People may think that by working out several times per week they can negate the damage done by extended periods of sitting. Unfortunately, this does not work because sitting is an independent risk factor (https://www.startstanding.org/sitting-new-smoking/#para1). So 8 hours of sitting is not offset by one or two hours of exercise.
Here are a few tricks to break up sitting time (And the focus is: If you can stand, don’t sit and if you can walk, don’t stand):
* Set a timer to get up and move every 30 minutes (stretch, walk, stand).
* Try a standing desk.
* When you get a phone call, stand and talk.
* Park far away from the building that you enter
* Instead of sitting in a conference room for a casual-work meeting, take a walk and talk
(Why stand more? Here is the math: You burn approximately 50 calories more per hour by standing. If you stand 3 hours/day X 5 days/ week, that’s 750 calories burned. In a year’s time that is equal to 30,000 calories, which is a loss of 9 pounds. With this information, a standing desk might be more appealing and it might also help to motivate you to stand while on the phone (https://www.startstanding.org/sitting-new-smoking/#para1).
So, which health problems can be prevented or reduced by simply moving more?
1. Burning calories obviously helps to fight obesity
2. We know that exercise lowers the risks for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, but did you know that exercise reduces risks for cancer? Excessive sitting has been linked to breast, prostate, lung, colon, endometrial and ovarian cancers (https://www.startstanding.org/sitting-new-smoking/#para5)
3. Exercise reduces our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
4. Physical activity is recommended to counter anxiety and depression
5. When we move our body we have less pain, especially neck and back pain, with back pain being the most common American health problem and the #1 reason for loss work-time (Cornell University Department of Ergonomics). Do you want to take charge of your life and design a strategy to manage your back, or do you want your back to rule you? (A Consultation with the Back Doctor by Hamilton Hall, MD)
6. Physical activity (specifically walking) has proven to reduce physical and mental disabilities in older adults (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1875328)
7. With less sitting and more standing and movement, we improve our posture, which has enormous impact on our health including less pain, fewer problems with joints and muscles, improved breathing and even better digestion
Since exercise is not optional, how can we get motivated? Fear and feeling like we “should” exercise are short-term motivators. It helps to find a physical activity that you like or at least prefer to do. You will be more motivated to be physically active if you like what you are doing. Even if you don’t like exercise, when you start feeling better after establishing a routine of physical activity, you develop a good habit. You get hooked; let it become a way of life.
Walking is a good place to start. For most people it is simple and doable. As far back as 1913, George Trevelyan (Founding Father of the New Age Movement) said: “I have two doctors, my left leg and my right leg.” Our healthcare providers have to help get the public on board with physical activity and less sitting by incorporating the process into everyone’s personal healthcare plan. Starting out with a prescription for exercise (rather than pills) is a good beginning tactic.
I dedicate this article to my hiking partner: When COVID kicked in, we committed to “walking through the virus” together.
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information, email her or call (845) 548-5980.
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