We are designed to move! Look at yourself in the mirror. You have two strong legs, three layers of core muscles wrapping around your middle to stabilize your pelvis and the largest muscle in your body, your buttocks, designed specifically to move you forward. There is a reason your buttocks covers your backside and the reason is not a cushion to sit on.
For many people, however, our electronic lives, whether it is the hours we sit at work, during leisure activity or pleasure have us bound to chairs. We sit and sit and sit! On average people spend 56 hours a week sitting in one place, literally going nowhere. As these hours add up so do the health dangers!
New studies show that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk of obesity, heart attack, diabetes, depression or even death. The enzymes that help use fight fat in our bodies actually decrease by 50% when we spend the day sitting whether at work or play. This allows the fat to circulate and pile up in our blood vessels as we sit.
The average American watches TV 5 hours a day. Large studies show that if you sit and watch TV 4 or more hours a day your risk of dying from heart disease is 80% more than if you limit your sedentary TV watching to 2 hours.
But TV is not the culprit, the sitting time is. The more time you spend sitting the more likely you are to die of heart disease in the next 12 years.
Findings like these have given rise to a new field of study called sedentary medicine. Many scientists are working hard to define the effects of sedentary living on our bodies and set guidelines for how to limit the flatline effect of sitting still all day. The truth is, for most of us poor health or death will not come in the form of bad spinach, or even the swine flu. It comes disguised as your safe haven, your couch.
So how do we beat the effects of our sedentary work, leisure or pleasure? It’s difficult to overcome the negative health effects of an 8-hour sitting-day with a mere 30 minute exercise session. Protecting our bodies is an all-day activity called non-exercise thermogenesis. This means burning as many calories as you can while doing normal activities of daily living. Our mothers might call this “fidgeting!”
As a mother, Orthopaedic surgeon and gatekeeper of mobility, I give my family and patients these 5 tips to keep to become a “mover and a shaker.”
- Walk briskly everywhere! Each day build in more walking distance to work, from work, from the car, at lunch time, walk around your office while you are on the phone, pay the bills standing up instead of sitting at the table. If you are getting off the couch or out of the chair for the first time in years build slowly. For instance, if you work on the 10th floor, walk the first 2 flights the first week and ride the last 8. Walk an additional floor every week.
- Waste steps-Taking an indirect path can save your life! Make multiple trips to the copier, the coffee machine, up and down the stairs at home, run around after your kids. Wear a step counter and see how quickly wasting steps can add up to positive health effects of 10,000 steps.
- Workplace workout– Workout wherever you are! Instead of sitting in comfy big chair at your desk, sit on an exercise ball 30 minutes every hour to burn more calories, stabilize your core and stay awake! Your office has walls so talk on the phone while doing wall squats and keep your core, buttocks and legs strong while you increase your non-exercise thermogenesis.
- Widen your vessels– Simple acts can make a difference! Every hour you are sitting take two deep breaths. Draw in as much air into your lungs as you possibly can, hold is for 5 seconds and breath out. This simple act can combat the fatty sludge build up in your blood vessels by sending out nitric oxide scavengers to eat up the harmful fat deposits.
- Watch moving around-There is no rule that you have to watch TV sitting down! Remember the negative effects of sitting more than 2 hours in front of a TV? Every time there is a commercial get up and exercise in the living room, watch your favorite show from the seat of an exercise bike or belt of a treadmill or simply have the TV on in the back ground to listen to your favorite show while you cook an amazing meal.