Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Sitting Really The New Smoking?? Yes!!

On Sunday and Monday, I was a passenger in my son's truck as we headed south to fairly warm Dallas. The roads were less than clear and the first day took us much longer than we had thought, but it was nice for a change to not be he driver (my leg has been a bit sore lately). All in all it was a good drive, considering how loaded down our vehicle was.

I always wear my new fitbit charge, as it also acts as my watch. One of the advantages (or disadvantages I suppose in this case) is that my trusty fitbit reminds me to get up and walk after fifteen minutes to a half an hour.  It's a great help, although I would be the first to admit that when I am sewing or painting i may not get up and walk at every single reminder.  On this particular trip, it was a reminder of what I was not able to do, unfortunately.  I tend to try and stop every two hours, as much for my canine family members as much for myself. To say that I am not moving the way I should on those days would be an understatement.

The truth is that I am the first to admit I don't move as much as I should-and I am well aware of the downsides of sitting too long. With a fair percentage of my hobbies falling in the "sedentary" category (sewing, drawing, writing), I have to make an effort.  My fitbit reminds me to get up and walk around the house, or exercise, or do something else-and most of the time I do it. I also plan my exercising on those good days to be mid day to divide up the laziness if you will. On the bad days, I accept that moving is gonna be no more than limping around the house.

And limp I do on some days. Even so, limping is better than the alternative. And I realize that retirement allows me to be more active than many others.  My schedule no longer requires me to sit in a car, then sit at the office, then sit in a car, sit down to dinner and get in bed, thankfully. I now have time to at least move about my house at will.  While it may be exhausting on some days, I know well that it needs to be part of my continuing goal to be healthy.

Apparently, even standing in one place is better than sitting, even without the exercise quotient.  Dr James Levine, who among other things is the inventor of the standing and treadmill desks, has been known to say that sitting kills more people than HIV, smoking, or parachuting. He believes we are sitting ourselves to death.  The bottom line is that prolonged sitting increases rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

What's even more concerning is that studies also show that the long term effects of sitting are not easily reversed-hence it's comparison to smoking. The only way to minimize the effects is, well, to simply sit less. Exercise and other good habits are great going forward, but don't minimize past damage.  This of course is always a concern to someone who is handicapped and has days when walking is, let's just say, difficult.  It's also a concern because for ten years I worked long hours, mainly at a desk.

So, what can we do?  Contrary to some critics, every little bit of exercise helps.  While all day, sweating activity is admirable, it may not be realistic or even desirable for all of us. So what's a sedentary or even slightly sedentary retiree to do?  The short answer is to move, or even just to stand, every chance you get.

More specifically,  recognize that even though you may workout an hour every day, that doesn't necessarily offset the sitting problem. Walking and standing need to be done regularly throughout the day.  I've been known to walk back and forth in my house for five minutes or so, to clean, to stand and clean or iron, to go outside and throw a ball do the dogs. If I still "had my balance" I would probably get one of those exercise boards that allows you to twist from side to side.

Whatever you do, running outside for a half an hour every half an hour is not realistic or necessary. In fact, Dr. Levine says that walking every hour or so for a few minutes around the house can have the same benefits as working out at the gym for an hours three times a week.

These days, the ways I "move for health" are varied.  I manage five thousand steps (or close) most days simply by moving about my house in little spurts here and there thanks to my fitbit. I don't have a standing desk, but when I can do something standing, I try to do so. On the good days, I aim for at least thirty minutes of aerobics. And last but not least, I try to be cognizant of the time spent in the chair (is it better in the recliner with my legs up?), and pay attention to that dancing guy on my fitbit that tells me it's time to get up and move.

I don't listen to him every single time, but I know he's there. And he keeps me honest. Mainly.


  1. You're so right: sitting is bad, moving is good, and it gets harder as we get older and sometimes it hurts. Anyway, we limp along, secure in the knowledge that as long as we're moving we're still alive!

  2. Even when sitting, i try to do some stretches.Anything to keep the body active and warmed up!

  3. Even when sitting, i try to do some stretches.Anything to keep the body active and warmed up!

  4. I haven't walked in about 5 years and before that I had limited mobility. I can't due to a neuromuscular condition. I do Sit and Be Fit, Chair Dancing, and Chair Yoga on DVDs. I'm 69 so that must be doing some good. So many of these articles imply that if you don't exercise or walk or eat organic or drink a gallon of water a day, you are going to die. Well, since no one gets out of here alive anyway, I'll eat and drink and exercise sensibly and not stress over any of it. IMHO.

  5. Well, my work gave physical activity but is it too late to make up for all those years of lying on a couch reading books? mmmmm

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