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Fight the “Sitting Disease”

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Fight the “Sitting Disease”

If you’re plopped on a bed, couch, or chair right now, you might have what is arguably the most 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, bus, or train while commuting, 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.

Here are some Tips to get you started.

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.

Spend an hour outdoors each week.
Preferably, much more. There’s a direct correlation between fitness levels and the amount of time you spend outdoors vs. indoors. Think about it: People who live outside are by nature more energized, upbeat, and fit. What to do outside? 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.

 Have walking meetings.
Need to discuss an important matter with a colleague? Skip the conference room, slip on some comfortable walking shoes, and invite them for a stroll. Bring a small pad and pen to jot down notes, or use the voice recorder on a smart phone.

 Get face-to-face at work.
Likewise, instead of e-mailing or calling colleagues, walk to their part of the building for some face time when you need to ask a question or solve a work issue.

Park on the perimeter.
You’ve been hearing this one for years, too, but you might be surprised to learn how much exercise you get from leaving your car at the far edge of the parking lot. For example, if you park in an empty spot closest to a store entrance, you might only walk about 20 steps to the front door. Parking at the far edge of the lot could mean you take 200 strides or more. Let’s say you shop twice a week. Over the course of the year, simply parking on the perimeter could tack on close to 40,000 steps to your workout regimen.