“Sitting Disease” – America’s Newest Epidemic

"Sitting Disease" - America's Newest Epidemic

“Sitting Disease” – America’s Newest Epidemic

Dear Friends,     

If you're plopped on a bed, couch, or chair right now, you might have what is a very common health problem in America today - sitting disease.

That might sound silly. But prolonged, morning-to-bedtime sitting - doctors call it sedentary living - has been shown by researchers to play a significant role in many of the most troublesome health issues of our time, from obesity and heart disease to diabetes to depression.

Think about the typical American day. Add up two hours for meals, one hour sitting in the car while commuting or running errands, eight hours behind a computer at work, up to five hours watching TV, and seven hours sleeping. That adds up to 23 out of 24 hours off your feet. Now, think about the most sedentary people you know. Can you honestly say they're on their feet for three hours a day? Probably not. We would guess that there are millions of Americans who spend as little as an hour being up and moving briskly during a typical day.

Get Up and Move

Until recently, experts considered the antidote to sitting disease to be formal exercise sessions. But new research is turning that thinking on its head. As it turns out, just being up and about throughout the day can be healthier for you than doing a rigorous workout, then sitting the rest of the time. It makes sense, when you think about how we used to live, walking and working all day. In fact, other than for athletes and soldiers, the idea of "working out" never existed until just a few decades ago!

This new thinking is important. It means that if you can live with greater vitality throughout your day, you can get all the health benefits, and more, than people working out in a gym but otherwise being inactive.

To get you started, here are a few ways to get you moving more during your day:

Walk faster: If there's just one change you can make to get more fitness out of your days, it's to pick up the pace each and every time you walk, whether it's going down a hallway, getting to your car, shopping at the mall, or merely enjoying nature. Walking faster burns more calories, strengthens leg muscles, is great for your heart and lungs, and for your attitude and sense of vitality.

Take the stairs: Yep, you've heard that one a million times. But consider this: Walking just two flights of stairs daily burns enough calories to melt six pounds in a year. In fact, climbing stairs for two minutes, five days a week provides the same calorie burn as a 36-minute walk. Consider setting yourself a quota of say, 60 stairs per day (a typical staircase has 10 steps, so that's six flights).

Add 15 minutes of walking to your lunch menu: At work or at home, we often allot 30 to 60 minutes to eat, but eating usually takes just 10 minutes. Spend your extra time walking, not sitting.

Dance: Move to the music at every opportunity, even if it's just shimmying to music on your own while you wash the dinner dishes. Dancing is both joyful and healthy; you don't need a dance floor, special occasion, or even a partner to do it.

Neaten up daily: Don't wait until the weekend to clean your home; spend some time every day tidying up. Dusting, doing laundry, vacuuming, and washing windows can all use up about as many calories as taking a spin on a bicycle. An extra hour of cleanup per week burns enough calories to trim four or five pounds in a year.

Turn TV time into a workout: Use commercial breaks during TV shows as a chance to rise off the sofa and stretch or move around.

Exercise your calf muscles while brushing your teeth: Place your feet flat on the floor, then rise up onto the balls of your feet, hold for two seconds, then sink down. Repeat 20, 30, 50 or more times. Do this also while washing dishes or standing in line.

Spend an hour outdoors each week: Pull weeds. Walk the dog. Practice your golf or tennis swing. Mulch the beds. Look for unusual birds. Bicycle. Visit a neighbor.

Talk standing: Whenever talking on the telephone, stand up and if possible, walk or pace. Never be seated while chatting on the phone.

I'll bet you can think of many more ways to add movement into your daily routine. The possibilities are endless. So, what are you waiting for? Get moving!

Yours in Health, 
Dr. Bowlby

Originally published in Reader's Digest


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Longview, WA 98632
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