You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” but what does this mean exactly? How does it affect me and what can I do about it?
Impact of Increasingly Sedentary Lifestyles
Researchers have been studying our increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years to determine the impact on our health and mortality. With advancements in technology, people are sitting more and moving less. From sitting during our daily commute, sitting in the office or on our computers, sitting to watch television…you get the picture. It is actually making us sick and killing us. The World Health Organization has determined physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for death for people around the world.
The “sitting is the new smoking” phrase was coined by Dr. James Levine, a Director at the Mayo Clinic, after years of research. He says sitting is just as major a risk factor as smoking for developing heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. For example, too much sitting can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes by 90%. Additional studies further emphasized the importance of not sitting too much by revealing that even people who exercise regularly are at greater risk if they sit the majority of their day. Exercising did show benefits for decreasing sedentary behaviors though. Dr. Levine summed it up when he said, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting.” He believes we are “sitting ourselves to death.”
What Is Too Much Sitting?
What is too much sitting and what can I do about it? Prolonged sitting, in the studies, was defined as approximately 8-12 hours a day. Every 2 hours of sitting increased the likelihood of health risks. Awareness of how much time you sit each day is the first step toward change.
Simple strategies to begin decreasing sitting time include: getting up to stand or walk during TV commercials, standing while making a phone call, getting up every half hour while on your computer. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember every few minutes of added standing, decreases your total sitting time.
The sitting studies may inspire you to become more physically active or begin a regular exercise plan. But maybe it seems like there are not enough hours in your day. Research has also shown that 10 minutes of activity worked into your day will provide health benefits. Increments of 10 minutes seem much more manageable and you will notice an increase in concentration, lifted mood, decreased stress and improved energy, in addition to the physical benefits. Depending on the type of activity, you may also have increased flexibility, strength, balance and/or endurance.
What Can I Do to Improve My Overall Physical Fitness
What kind of activity will improve overall physical fitness? The next step is to determine what types of activities you like to do. If you enjoy gardening, house cleaning, walking, sports, or any activity that requires movement…that is a good start. You can scrub that bathtub with enthusiasm, dig in your garden, walk up and down your steps or do squats at your computer. Anything that gets you moving will have benefits. Often when you start to feel results, you will be motivated to add another 10-minute time block of physical activity. These suggestions are suitable for people with visual impairments as well as sighted individuals.
Even if you want to join a gym or engage in a sport, there are plenty of opportunities for a person with a visual impairment. You can try out yoga or Pilates with an “eyes free fitness” audio instruction on the Blind Alive website. You can try cross country skiing with Ski for Light, a program that teaches all ability levels and provides sighted, experienced ski guides. Perhaps Achilles International can hook you up with a sighted running partner. There are even opportunities for tandem biking and other summer activities at Hull Park, an adult retreat center for the blind and low vision.
Before attempting any significant change in your physical activity level, always remember to consult your physician and start out slowly to avoid injury.
The key to physical fitness is to get moving and stay moving. It will vastly improve your quality of life and significantly improve your health. Find something you enjoy doing that will get you moving and decrease that sitting time!