For years now the dangers of smoking have been well documented. It is linked to 90% of lung cancer cases in this country, as well as to heart disease and stroke. But researchers now say sitting and the sedentary lifestyle many Americans lead might just be the new smoking. Even if you get the recommended amount of exercise each day, sitting too much can still have dangerous consequences.
The Dangers of Sitting Too Much
Dr. James Levine, a researcher from the Mayo Clinic, urges people to think of sitting as the new smoking. And he should know. He’s been studying the effects of sitting for 15 years now.
In one study, Dr. Levine’s team compared adults who spent 2 or less hours in front of a television or other screen each day with those who logged more than four hours. They found those with higher times were 50% more likely to die sooner and 125% more likely to experience a cardiac event. These statistics held true no matter how much or what type of exercise the adult engaged in.
Other problems linked to sitting too much include:
- Blood sugar rises which increases your risk for diabetes or causes an existing case of the disease to worsen
- More incidences of cancer and for developing multiple types of cancer, especially breast, colon and prostate
- Higher risk for depression and other mental health conditions
- Greater chance for developing high cholesterol, hypertension and cardiac disease
- Metabolism slows by 20 – 50% increasing the odds for obesity
- A bigger bottom – sitting puts more pressure on the body tissues that make fat cells causing them to make as much as 50% more
7 Ways to Avoid Sitting Too Much
The impact of staying active throughout the day can be significant on your health. Some research has shown that cutting your sitting time to less than three hours each day can increase life expectancy by as much as two years.
What can you do to overcome a sedentary lifestyle, especially if the new career you tackled in your retirement years requires you to sit at a desk?
Here are a few tips for staying in motion:
- Take a break from sitting every hour to stand up and stretch, march in place or make a few laps around your office if you are able.
- Consider purchasing a small, under-the-desk bike. They allow you to work the pedals throughout the day from a seated position. These bikes can also be a good option for older adults with mobility problems who spend a lot of time sitting.
- Wear a pedometer or fitness tracker and set a goal of taking 10,000 steps each day. Some newer devices will actually alert you if you’ve been sitting too long without moving.
- Remind yourself that every step counts. Park further away from the mall entrance. Walk laps around the perimeter of the grocery store or big box store before you begin shopping. Look for opportunities throughout your day to keep moving.
- Set your computer up on a counter or cocktail table and answer emails and reply to friends on Facebook from a standing position.
- Instead of meeting friends for coffee or lunch, take advantage of Seattle’s wonderful parks. Create a walking group of fellow retirees who meet to explore and hike the trails together a few times each week.
To learn more, download Dr. Levine’s free guide “Sit Less. Stand More. Start Down.” It contains a variety of helpful resources ranging from prevention tips to products that help you stay moving.