How to combat sedentary lifestyle in the present times
Sitting is the new smoking
“Motion is lotion, the rest is rust”, is commonly used by PT therapists and orthopedic doctors to stress the importance of movement. Moving and maintain a range of motion keeps our joints fluid, a good remedy for arthritic joints and strengthens our core. But the biggest face off to being active is technology. Video games, cellphones, cars, television and computers, in other words – modern devices that have made our work and play easier, faster and more efficient have contributed to the sitting epidemic that is plaguing the modern world.
In the last millennia we have evolved from being hunters and gatherers to being stagnant behind the desk, almost completely conducting our lives through our screens. This change has negatively impacted our bodies, designed to be on the move and in an upright position. The list of negative impacts is alarmingly long and includes, some well-known like obesity & weight gain, posture and back pain, increase blood pressure & blood sugar levels, as well as unhealthy cholesterol levels. Others equally devastating including dwindled cognitive functions, depression & anxiety, even decreased life expectancy, lethargy and diminished energy.
Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic and inventor of the treadmill desk who has been studying the adverse effects of sedentary lifestyle for years has summed up his findings in two distressing sentences. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death”. This may sound alarmist, but when we recall moving from driver’s seat to office chair to the couch at home – it is not far from the truth. It would serve our generation well to be always aware of the reality that sitting can generate a domino effect that can produce a litany of other long range complications.
It is not just about how long we are sitting in a day, but also about how much of it we do at a stretch. Frequent breaks can make a huge difference. A short pause to stretch, stand or to walk around every thirty minutes will improve circulation and significantly reduce health risks. Being aware of and practicing good posture is another conscious decision that has huge payoffs. Investments like a standing desk or a stability ball also work well for many. Taking brisk walks during lunch hours or from the parking lot and using the elevator are all conscious decisions to engage in healthy practices. Each of these choices prevent loss of muscle tone. Inversely compact muscle development keeps the endorphins goings, and alleviates depressive funk that sedentary lifestyles can create. Too much sitting spirals our metabolism downwards into a coasting mode. Complacency, lethargy, fatigue kicks in and we lose the motivation to do much of anything.
Active for Life
When the TV remote beckons we have to make a commitment to health because the harsh truth is our body doesn’t care, heart disease comes uninvited, and unless we want to increase our chances for some messy health complications – it is time to make some changes. Small modifications can go a long way. Cardiologists, healthcare professionals all recommend that both at work and home frequent breaks should become a way of life. Household chores, breaking up TV watching with walks, stretches or standing up during ad breaks can go a long way in cultivating good habits. At work, setting up alarms to stretch, getting a drink or even talking to colleagues instead of emailing them are steps with big impacts. Other practices like standing for the first 15 minutes of every meeting are excellent ways of combating sedentary lifestyle molds. Setting up a buddy system and being accountable so one can exercise, walk, cycle, swim or do yoga together are all ways to build lifelong healthy habits.
Many of us may not have been aware of lapsing into the lazy world of sitting, so insidious is this behavior. Indeed we have to make a conscious effort to be cognizant, alert and on our toes. Where do you, my readers see yourself on this spectrum? Or have you been ahead of the curve - mindful and building healthy routines? Like ripples on a lake let us spread this consciousness to future generations.
We are stronger together