Did you know that our constant sitting habit is one of the most common roads to illness, disease, and even early death? Our widespread sedentary lifestyle is relatively new. Only a decade or two ago people “ran errands,” but now the vast majority of tasks can be completed without ever leaving your seat. Dr. James Levine, director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative at Mayo Clinic, Arizona State University said, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
That statement is not an exaggeration. Research shows that prolonged sitting increases the risk of muscular problems, several types of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Long periods of inactivity can also slow metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and break down body fat.
The mantra “sitting is the new smoking” was coined by Dr. Levine himself, and researchers tend to agree. Like smoking, it takes years for this habit to reveal its ugly effects, and by that time, it could be too late. Think you’re immune to the long-sitting phenomenon? Think about how many things you do without getting up or moving your legs: watching TV, using a computer, reading, doing homework, traveling in a vehicle… as well as the innumerable conveniences accessible from a sitting position such as shopping online, dashboard dining, video conferencing – even taking courses online or visiting with grandma through FaceTime.
However, there is hope! For every age group, minor behavioral changes can alter the risk of becoming a sitting duck and provide the opportunity to enjoy a long and happy life.
Toddlers under age 5: Limit a toddler’s time watching TV, playing computer games, and being strapped in a buggy or baby bouncer. Parents – you may have to spend more time actively throwing balls or playing dress up, and that’s a good thing!
Children and youth: Limit the number of TVs and computers in the home as they enable children to be more sedentary. You can even label bedrooms TV/computer-free zones. Give children gifts that require active play such as scooters, kites, and balls.
Adults age 19 to 64: Stand up while on trains or buses. Choose the stairs instead of the escalator. Stand or walk while talking on the phone. If you sit at a computer for extended periods of time at your job, ask your employer for an adjustable desk riser.
Seniors age 65 and over: This is the most sedentary group who routinely spend 10-plus hours a day sitting or lying down. Barring reduced functionality or ill health, slowing down doesn’t have to equate to stopping living, loving, or pursuing your passions. Avoid long periods of TV viewing and include active daily movement such as walking, light housework, and other pleasurable activities.
Get back to doing things that get your blood going – listen to music, laugh, and interact with others. In other words, do less sitting and more stand-up living!
Abella Carroll is a freelance writer