Albert Guarini, PT
Cooper Bone and Joint Institute
There is growing evidence that sitting or inactivity for several hours a day can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type II diabetes. An article was published in the January 2015 issue of the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, which reviewed 47 research articles determining that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect your health.
So what does that mean, you ask? It means that just how smoking, unhealthy eating and consuming too much alcohol can negatively impact your health, so can the amount of inactivity in your daily routine. Previously, it was thought that even if you led a sedentary lifestyle and followed the American Heart Association (AHA) exercise recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, the effects of inactivity were negated. However, after this most recent systematic review, it is confirmed that prolonged inactivity – defined as eight to twelve hours per day – is now a risk factor for poor health regardless of your activity level.
As our society increases its reliance on computers and technology, it is not unusual to have a job that requires you to sit behind a computer all day. It can be easy to accumulate several hours of sitting if you have a “desk job,” plus add on time spent commuting in a car, train or bus. Also, most of us spend time at home sitting and watching TV or doing more work in front of our computers. Hours sitting can easily add up!
So what can you do? The first step is becoming more aware of how much you are sitting on a daily basis. You have to admit you have a problem first before you can get help. Do a little self-reflection and add up the time you spend sitting in a day.
Next, reduce the amount of time you sit. Start small, but stay consistent. You can do little things. For example, stand up and walk around for three to five minutes every 30 minutes you spend sitting at your desk. Get a lunch break? Try walking at lunch every day; even 15 minutes can make an impact. Following these two tips could cut out five to 8 hours of sitting per week.
Some other tips include moving around during commercials while watching television. Try walking up and down your steps, marching in place or doing some push-ups. This is an easy way to sneak in some exercise.
It is important to remember to hit the American Heart Association recommended weekly activity of 150 minutes of moderate activity (30 minutes x five days per week) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (25 minutes x three days per week) or a combination of both. A fun way to track your activity is to download one of the many apps out there onto your smart phone. There are plenty of apps on the market that will track your steps, activity level, caloric intake, hours of sleep, etc.
Technology not your thing? A pedometer works just as well to track the amount of steps you take. It is recommended you strive toward 10,000 steps per day which is equivalent to five miles. Sounds like a lot, but start tracking your steps and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can accumulate them. Maybe, you’ll start skipping that elevator ride in the morning or walk to your favorite lunch spot. You might even think about starting a competition with your family or co-workers to see who can accumulate the most steps in a week. You just have to make if fun.