Use It or Lose It
Movement is no exception.
The less often you move, the more likely you are to lose your ability to move over time. Slowly but surely your stillness — your lack of working and challenging you body — may result in stiffness, pain, injury, even death.
According to this article at the Alliance for Natural Health, “A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation showed that each extra hour of television watching (the ultimate sitting sedentary activity) per day was associated with an 18% increase in deaths from heart disease and an 11% increase in overall mortality. People who watched TV for at least four hours a day were 80% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who watched two hours or less, and 46% more likely to die of any cause.”
Working out between long stretches of sitting apparently doesn’t undo the damage, according to the study above, which took exercise and other factors into consideration.
[Article continued below graphic.]
How much are you sitting every day?
According to Nielsen Ratings, the average American watched over 5 hours of TV daily in 2013, presumably sitting much of that time.
Many Americans also sit while they work, potentially adding another 6+ hours of sitting to daily routines. Then there’s sitting during commuting time.
According to Dr. Martha Grogan, a Cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”
How to Sit Less and Move More
- Get a standing/sitting desk at work and switch it up (and down). Can’t afford one? Sturdy books or boxes will do the trick too, so prop up that laptop or monitor. Standing desks can take some time to get used to, so go easy at first and slowly ramp up your standing time. Some folks also like treadmill desks.
- Use your work breaks to take a short walk instead of snacking. At a minimum, you’ll benefit from increased alertness and decreased stress. (In fact, it’s not that candy bar you ate during your break that gave you energy, it was the walk to get the candy bar.) If you walk briskly for 10 minutes twice a day, you’ve already met the most-oft suggested fitness boost of getting just 20 minutes of walking in per day. Taking a walk at lunchtime is a great option too, get a coworker to walk with you.
- Better yet, get in a five minute walk every hour. According to this study and others described in the Washington Post, sitting for an hour can impair blood flow in the legs up to 50%. A five minute walk hourly counteracts this decline. Set your computer, phone or watch to ping at you hourly as a reminder.
- Park further away.
- Take the stairs.
- When possible and safe, stand or walk around on public transportation.
- Walk on a treadmill, ride an exercise bike or use a balance board while watching TV. Move during commercials.
- Better yet, skip the TV and go dancing. (Or garden, swim, hike, bike. Take a yoga class and feel how goooood it is to stretch!)
I also suggest that you uncross your legs and fidget while you’re sitting and consider getting a wobble ball to sit on. My father collapsed in an airport and died from an aneurism — a burst blood vessel in his brain — after flying to and from South Korea in three days. That was 36 hours of flying time packed into 72 hours. The longer you fly the more your blood vessels constrict, potentially causing blood clots in even young, athletic children. This condition is known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can also affect people recovering in bed, those experiencing swelling or edema, or folks riding in a car for long periods, among other risk factors. Blood clots can travel to the lungs, heart or brain and cause serious injury or death.
Some easy exercises to combat DVT include walking, your best bet; foot pumps, ankle circles, leg raises and shoulder rolls while forced to sit; and finally foot pumps and thigh stretches while lying down. These exercises are described over at EveryDayHealth.com.
Try these exercises periodically when you’re forced to sit for a long meeting, commute and so forth. They will do your body good.
Also over at the Washington Post is this terrific graphic (also available as a PDF poster), which details more vagaries from sitting, including organ damage, muscle degeneration, brain, neck and back issues, leg disorders and mortality. More exercises are included.
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