Senior Health Alert
Researchers are finding that a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to your health, and over time, sitting on your backside can literally kill you. Thanks to the electronic age, people worldwide are spending less time in physically active jobs and hobbies and more time sitting at computer screens and texting via smartphones. At home, couch potatoes watch TV, pay bills online and catch up with friends via Facebook and FaceTime – all without standing up and moving around. As people of all ages sit for longer periods of time, their metabolism slows, circulation decreases and muscles become weak and stiff.
With less movement, the body uses less blood sugar, and research shows that for every two hours a person sits per day, the chance of getting diabetes increases by 7 percent. Inactive people also are more prone to heart disease because enzymes that regulate blood fats become sluggish. With less activity, individuals also burn fewer calories, which can lead to obesity and further health complications.
A medical study by the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese Department of Health found that in people 35 years of age and older, 20 percent of their deaths were from lack of physical activity – that’s more deaths than from smoking. The same research concludes that for more lethargic people, the risk of dying from respiratory illnesses was 92 percent higher for men and 75 percent higher for women. Also, in this study on physical activity and morbidity, the chance of dying from heart disease for the inactive is 52 percent higher for men and 28 percent higher for women.
The troubling health effects of the sedentary lifestyle has spawned a new medical field called “inactivity physiology” that explores what researchers are dubbing “sitting disease.” Fortunately, sitting disease can be prevented and often reversed through physical activity. Movement massages the body’s tissues and organs, supplying them with oxygen and improving flexibility. The body’s lymph system relies on physical activity to keep lymph fluid circulating to boost the immune system and fight infections. More rigorous exercise produces perspiration, which rids the body of toxins. Consistent activity also fuels the mood-elevating hormones that sharpen thinking and decrease depression. Getting up and moving throughout the day also lowers one’s number of doctor visits and reduces healthcare costs. Statistics show that older adults who engage in regular exercise improve their overall physical and mental health and are 60 percent less likely to get dementia.
Even a few simple adjustments in daily activity, particularly in the non-exercise routines that burn calories, such as folding laundry and standing to stretch, can deter the perils of extended sitting. For example, standing at your desk burns 115 calories per hour compared to 83 calories sitting. Taking the stairs uses 509 calories vs. riding the elevator, which uses only 128 calories. Chatting on the phone while pacing expends 147 calories, compared to talking on the phone while seated, which burns a mere 102 calories. Small increases in daily moving add up to better health and longevity in the long-run.
The following are tips for shaking up the sedentary life every day:
• Stand up every half-hour and walk around and stretch.
• Stand while you read emails or clean up your desk.
• Walk around when you are on the phone.
• Watch TV while on an exercise bike or treadmill.
• Consider trading your chair for an oversized stability ball.
• Cook more meals instead of ordering fast food or delivery.
• Shop at the mall instead of shopping online.
• Play Wii or another active video game vs. sitting to play computer games.
Are you worried about contracting sitting disease? There is a preventive cure. Getting off one’s behind and swapping a more active approach to common everyday activities is just what the inactivity physiology experts ordered.
Director, Senior New Ways Board of Directors
Ralph is an Arizona Independent Insurance Broker – Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D Plans in Arizona.
Ralph D Bredahl