Everyone these days understands the health hazards associated with smoking tobacco. What most people don’t realize is that sitting for long periods of time, day in and day out, can be just as unhealthy and cause numerous health conditions similar to smoking.
Although Americans are keenly aware of the hazards associated with tobacco use, we seem to be blind to the health hazards associated with decreased mobility and sitting, which increases our risks of health conditions.
Lack of mobility and movement is a curse of our generation because we work in offices, drive or ride to and from work, school and family trips. We Americans also sit and watch more than three hours of TV a day!
The average American sits for more than 10 hours a day – that is almost half of a day. Add to that eight hours of sleep and that means 18 out of 24 hours each day is sedentary. That is 75 percent of each day not moving. Believe me, an hour at the gym, even five days a week, is not enough to offset 18 hours of lying down or sitting.
A recent study in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences surveyed people ages 50 to 71 across eight to 10 years. The study looked at their sitting and walking habits and abilities over the years. Those who tended to sit the most and move the least had more than three times the risk of difficulty walking by the end of the study when compared to their more active counterparts. Some ended up unable to walk at all.
Another study by the Mayo Clinic compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in recreational screen time – watching TV or playing video games, etc. – to those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause; and a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack. (The increased risk was separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking or high blood pressure.)
To further understand the risks of spending too much time sitting, check out JustStand.org. It is stunning the negative impact chairs and couches have on our health.
When it comes to “how” we sit, the next time you have the chance to be around toddlers or young children, watch how they play and sit. You will see them in a perfect squat position while engaging in floor activities. I doubt anyone taught the child how to squat, which means it is something they do naturally. Notice how the heels are fully on the ground, the knees are over their feet and, what is the most amazing aspect, the bottom is almost completely on the ground. A squat of this nature is how we were intended to sit. In fact, if you go to other countries such as China, you can see that even their most elderly members can still perform this movement often and with ease.
Just move it! Going to a gym is great but, as mentioned earlier in the article, an hour a day at the gym will not offset the eight to 18 hours of immobility. And chances are you drove to the gym. We need to find more ways to stand, walk and move more often if not the majority of our day.
Here are some ways to better your health by simply incorporating movement and mobility into your day:
Stand at your desk. The new standing desks are easily available and inexpensive. For under $400, you can put a desk top, such as the Varidesk, that moves up and down on top of your current desk. Strive to stand for at least a cumulative time of four hours a day.
Stand up every 30 minutes. Reach for the ceiling or touch your toes. Get your blood flowing by doing 10 jumping jacks or squats. Close your eyes or look outside to give your eyes a break too.
Walk every hour. No need to go around the block every hour, but up and down a set of stairs or out to the car and back. And while you are up, drink a large glass of water – not only will you stay hydrated, but you will also have to “get up and go” in about 30 minutes.
Stretch. Active stretching, where you only hold the stretch for about 10 seconds, is a great way to activate numerous muscles in a short period of time. Use a doorway to stretch your shoulders and arms. Extend your fingers and toes. Bend forward, backward and to the side to loosen the back and hips. Put your hands on the floor or a chair and bend and straighten your legs. Turn your head from side to side.
Just breathe. It is amazing how just taking four or five deep breaths every hour will energize the mind and body and make you want to move. FBN
By Preston Gilbert
Preston Gilbert is the owner of True Fitness Center, located at 5200 E. Cortland Blvd., in Flagstaff. Gilbert has more than a decade of experience working as a fitness trainer, boxing instructor and athletic coach. He trains people of all ages and all fitness levels. Gilbert is a certified CrossFit Trainer and USA Certified Boxing Coach. To learn more about True Fitness Center or to make an appointment with Gilbert or a member of the True Fitness team, visit TeamTrueFitness.com or call 928-707-9558.