Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Leave Sitting To The Hens: Sedentary Behavior and Our Health

If you were paid for every activity you do standing up, how wealthy would you be?
Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
Turns out that is exactly the case - except we are paid in health bucks. After hearing several comments about the health concerns of sitting (or sedentary behavior as it is known in sophisticated circles) for prolonged periods of time, I decided to dig into the research myself.The results: anyone whose work is done in a sedentary position - writers, accountants, drivers, editors, or any work done at a desk or computer - do indeed have cause for concern.

According to an article by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, sitting for more than four hours a day can cause “A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause” and “About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack" (James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., "What Are The Risks Of Sitting Too Much", <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005>)

They went on to say, “Sitting in front of the TV isn't the only concern. Any extended sitting — such as behind a desk at work or behind the wheel — can be harmful. What's more, spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn't seem to significantly offset the risk. The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall." (Levine)

Dr. Levine's article is a good representation of my research results. Here are some facts that got my attention:

Cancer, Diabetes 2, high blood pressure and increased weight gain around the waist can be caused by sitting too long.

TV viewing was often quoted as the worst form of sitting, but other “screen-time” activities were also noted to be harmful. Non-screen activities like sewing, board games or reading had conflicting results among the studies.

(This one surprised me the most!) Regular, daily exercise is not enough to fully combat the harms of sitting. Basically, the harmful effects of sitting – just like smoking, drinking, etc. are not nullified just because you're are a champion sprinter.

While studies varied, sitting for more than four hours at a time seemed to be the typical qualifier for “too long”.

Taking frequent breaks and move around more in general is a better remedy than long, vigorous periods of activity.

Why Is Sitting So Unhealthy?

The Lord designed our bodies to move. While we often think the condition of our bodies are maintained by eating right, daily exercise and quality sleep, frequent movement is just as needful as any one of these other things. Movement keeps our blood flowing which prevents plaque from building up in our arteries, lowers cholesterol, strengthens our muscular system and much more. For a helpful discussion on why sitting can be so harmful, check these insightful articles “Reducing Sedentary Behavior: Sitting Less and Moving More” and "Is Sitting A Lethal Activity?"

What Can We Do?

Stand More

Standing increase the energy in your body and frees you to be more active. Even rocking back and forth, stretching, or shifting feet is better than sitting. Take any activity you do sitting and ask, "Could I do this standing up?". For writing, editing or long periods at my laptop, I've been able to make a "mobile" stand-up desk with a 12" plant stand. Standing also lessens the chance of you being sedentary for a longer period of time.

Take Regular Movement Breaks

Walking and stretching are my favorites, but be creative. Every hour get up and do a ten minute household chore, brisk walk or whatever else gets you moving

Don't snack while sitting. 

When we sit, we either fall into mindless eating or don't become hungry or thirsty until our body is suffering from lack of nourishment. Discipline yourself to eat regular meals at regular times and drink before you're dehydrated.

Trash “I'll Get Up After This”  Thinking 
Retrain yourself to value movement over convenience. One trap of sitting is we get comfortable and before we know it, we've spent hours on our tushy. Make it a goal to train your body to "crave" movement and when the thought to get moving comes, do it!

Our bodies are the Lord's temple. In previous generations, women wore out their bodies crossing the Rockies in covered wagons, chopping trees to build log cabins, and birthing babies with low-nutrient diets. Now our major health haphazard is wearing our bodies out from lack of movement. Let's start integrating active habits in our days now, so in our golden years, we'll still be women who are strong in body, soul and spirit.

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