By: Ann Cannon, RN, BSN, CHFN
"Sitting is the new smoking," says Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who has studied the dangers of an inactive life.
Meaning, it can kill us.
Dr. Levine's studies have found that sitting around—as many of us do for both work and pleasure—is bad for our health. When you sit for even as few as six hours a day, it raises blood pressure and your chance of being overweight, getting diabetes, having depression, and developing some types of cancer. People who already have chronic illnesses see their symptoms worsen from too much sitting. And that's just for starters.
Think we're out of danger if we go to the gym regularly?
Think again. The usual advice to get regular exercise isn’t enough to balance the dangers of all the sitting we do. And we do a lot of it: Americans average nine and a half hours of sitting per day. So keep up your 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (the kind that keeps your heart rate up) most days of the week, as the American Heart Association recommends. But you’ll need to move around more.
So how can you get moving?
General daily activities:
Take the stairs whenever you can.
Park a few blocks away and walk to get where you are going.
Park toward the back of the lot at the grocery store. If you have extra time, walk a few laps around the grocery store before shopping.
If you take the bus, walk at a fast pace to the bus stop. Try getting off the bus one stop early.
Think of your household chores as exercise. Try doing them at a pace fast enough to get your heart pumping.
Put on some music that you love and dance. Have a family dance party.
Gently stretch while watching television and get off the couch to change channels or adjust the volume.
At work and on the go:
Make the most of your commute—bike or walk at least part of the way.
Take one to five minute breaks every twenty minutes to stretch.
Take a short walk or simply stand up. Arrange your work station so that you have to stand up to go to the files.
Deliver messages to co-workers in person rather than by email.
With your family:
Walk or jog around the field during your child’s sports practice.
Make a neighborhood bike ride or walk part of your weekend routine.
Plan active outings: hike a trail, find a new place to walk, play games at the beach or head to the closest park.
Look for opportunities to exercise in everything you do.
Stay moving and stay well!
Ann Cannon is a nurse care manager at MMC’s Turning Point Cardiac Wellness Program as well as the clinical specialist for Cardiovascular Health and Heart Failure at MaineHealth.
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