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Sitting is the New Smoking
By Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, ACSM-CPT
PHYSICAL HEALTH FOR WIDOWS
Have you heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking”? It’s attributed to James Levine, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. The more we sit, the higher our risk of certain diseases and physical ailments. I will say that I think smoking is definitely the worst thing you can do for your health, but not moving is definitely a concern in our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
Our bodies are not designed to sit. They are designed to be in motion! Unfortunately we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting — driving, eating, working, and relaxing.
What about exercise? Even if you work out several times a week, it doesn’t negate the damage done by sitting. The average person could not do enough exercise to counteract the effects of sitting in a chair hour after hour. This doesn’t mean you should drop your regular exercise routine! But start thinking about what you can do in addition to the planned exercise to simply get more movement in your day.
What Happens When We Sit?
Metabolism bottoms out. Your calorie burn actually reduces by up to 90% when you’ve been sitting for 30+ minutes. Our muscles are the game changer. When they are resting, their electrical activity shuts off, causing insulin to store fat, slowing the breakdown of blood fats, and lowering good cholesterol levels.
Back and neck pain. When we sit there is 90% more pressure on our lower back. We tend to slump our shoulders and look down at our computers or phones which causes postural kyphosis, which in turn causes neck and back pain.
Increased risk of disease. This includes certain cancers, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s, mood disorders (anxiety and depression), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Decreased focus. We literally think better when we have blood flowing throughout our bodies!
Shortened lifespan. One study found that if we reduced our sitting time to 3 hours a day we could increase our life expectancy by 2 years.
How to Move More
I know for myself, when I sit down at night, it’s all over. I sink into the couch and don’t want to get back up. But it’s not the few moments we get to relax that we need to think about. It’s the rest of the day, especially the 8-5 workday.
Get up and move every 30-45 minutes throughout your day. At a minimum every hour.
Pace! Walk around the house, backyard, or parking lot at work when you are on conference or personal phone calls.
Get a standing desk. Check out Vari or Uplift brands. You don’t have to replace your entire desk! You can add a converter to the top of your current desk to get you up. Don’t plan to stand all day. That is also not good for your back. Take turns standing and sitting throughout the day.
Go for walking meetings with friends or colleagues. Instead of meeting a friend for lunch, meet for a walk!
Park farther away. I know you have likely heard this one a million times, but do it! Every single time you go to a store.
Plan movement breaks that don’t have to just be walking: Lunges, squats, jumping jacks, march in place, etc. Keep a resistance band in a desk drawer and pull it out for a few exercises a few times each day.
Step goals. Count your steps and aim for that 10K daily goal. You will find ways all day long to get in more steps!
Turn a bathroom break into a walk break. Walk to the furthest bathroom instead of the closest. While you’re up, do a few laps around the house or office or do a few flights of stairs to get your heart pumping.
Moving can impact your life in a profound way. It’s never too late to move.
Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, and fellow Wister. You can find her at dietdiva.net.