The sitting disease

The sitting disease: why inactivity is dangerous for your health

Inactivity could be the next major health condition that might well be comparable to smoking!  Would you say you lead an active or a sedentary life?

The “sitting disease,” or a sedentary lifestyle, is a term we’ve sadly become more used to recently. While sitting down all day may seem harmless, you may be surprised by the negative impact it has on your health. Negative effects such as an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (breast and colon) are all found to be associated with the sitting disease.

It’s not too late to start to get active in some small way. It will improve the quality of your life. Studies indicate that after age 55, we lose strength, stamina, and flexibility to a significant degree.  While it’s fair to say that the years of punishing our bodies take their toll, sometimes they rob us of our mobility if we don’t keep moving.

Moving and and pushing your body as much as you can no doubt be good. Research indicates that exercise leads to a happier, healthier, and longer life. When you lead an active life, you maintain your independence and are less likely to depend on others for daily chores and activities.

The sitting disease
The sitting disease

You might also consider the following benefits of exercise:

Exercise improves your balance

Improving your balance reduces the likelihood of you falling. According to the US National Council of Aging, a senior citizen is admitted to an emergency room for a fall-related injury every 11 seconds. Even worse, every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are a major health issue in the community with around 30% of adults over 65 experiencing at least one fall per year.

Exercise gives you more energy

Exercise leads to the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals that help the body cope with pain and stress. Exercise thus promotes a sense of well-being, makes you feel more energetic, and helps you sleep better.

Exercise prevents disease

An active lifestyle can ward off or reduce the severity of diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a sedentary lifestyle doubles the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.

Exercise prevents lower back pain

Low back pain (LBP) is more than just a nagging ache. It’s a full-blown epidemic, on the rise in prevalence and responsible for more global disability than any other condition. LBP is exceptionally common, believed to affect roughly 80% of the developed world at some point in their lifetimes.

Onset of painful symptoms typically begins as early as twenty years old, and commonly occurs prior to the age of forty. As common as it is unbiased, LBP impacts men and women alike, with slight statistical prevalence being shifted towards women, specifically those who are pregnant.

With inactivity being a common cause of LBP to begin with, it isn’t surprising that activity-based methods are commonly suggested for prevention and treatment of LBP.

Walking increases the stability of the spine and conditions the muscles that keep the body in the upright position. Walking, along with regular stretching, allows greater range of motion, helps prevent awkward movements, and susceptibility of future injury.  Walking also strengthens bones through enhancing bone density and can help aid in reducing osteoarthritis pain.

Exercise improves brain function

Regular exercise improves brain health. Exercise reduces the probability of acquiring dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases by nearly 50 percent, according to the research foundation for Alzheimer’s.

People lose stamina, strength, and flexibility, as they grow older, but these losses can be reversed. The study involving 100 nursing-home residents aged 72 to 98 who performed resistance exercises three times a week found that after 10 weeks, those who exercised could climb more stairs, walk faster and further, and lift significantly more weight than those who didn’t exercise.

How do you start?

Health risks caused by sedentarism and the dangers of sitting can be prevented simply by moving more during the day. This doesn’t mean you need to get those old dusty running shoes out of the closet and start training for a marathon. There are plenty of easy and convenient ways you can integrate movement into your schedule.

The sitting disease

Health risks caused by sedentarism and the dangers of sitting can be prevented simply by moving more during the day. This doesn’t mean you need to get those old dusty running shoes out of the closet and start training for a marathon. There are plenty of easy and convenient ways you can integrate movement into your schedule. Here are a few ways to increase movement every day:

  • Walking around while talking on the phone
  • Limiting the amount of time you spend watching TV
  • Having walk-and-talk meetings or get togethers
  • Getting a walking buddy
  • Taking your dog for a walk
  • Gardening

As with any exercise program, start with a check-up by your primary health provider. If you have osteoporosis, congenital heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, joint replacement, or anything else that limits mobility, seek guidance on how to proceed.

Cardiovascular conditioning

A sedentary lifestyle weakens the heart, making its contractions feeble. As a result, the heart pumps less blood with each heartbeat. However, regular exercise can reverse some of this loss of function and strength. Good activities for cardiovascular conditioning include walking, swimming, and cycling.

Stretching to improve flexibility

Only do stretching exercises when your muscles are warm. You might want to add 10 or so minutes of stretching exercises after your weightlifting or aerobic sessions. Make your stretching moves slow and controlled.

For best results, hold a stretch to a count of 30 even as you breathe deeply in and out. Repeat three to five times. Increase the range of the stretch as you gain flexibility. Remember, stretching shouldn’t be painful.

Strength training

If you’re very frail, you’re better off starting with strength training (resistance exercises). This helps build your muscles to enable you to perform everyday tasks comfortably.

You can use ankle and hand weights for resistance training. Start small and build up as you become stronger. Lift a weight that you can manage comfortably for eight repetitions. Count to three as you lift the weight, hold for a count of one, and then lower it to a count of three. Rest for three seconds, and then repeat. If you can do the repetitions 15 times, add more weight. Exercise different muscle groups on different days.

Balance exercises

Avoid falls by increasing your stability through balance exercises. Balance exercises include the heel-to-toe walk, one-leg stand, and toe-stand.

Heel-to-toe: Move as though walking a tightrope, the heel of one foot touching the toes of the other. Hold out your arms for balance, if need be.

One-leg stand: Stand on one leg, then the other, as you wait in a queue. At home, do this with your eyes closed, but make sure you’re safe from a fall.

Toe-stand: Hold a chair for support and push yourself into a tiptoe position. Hold as long as comfortable, lower yourself, and then repeat.

The bottom line

It’s important, although not always easy, to remain active as you age. If you have a condition that limits activity, seek medical advice on how much you can do. Start small and increase your level of activity gradually. As you gain strength, stability, and balance, you will be glad you started on an exercise regime.  Any regular exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight, especially as one ages and metabolism slows down.

Note: The above information is solely to demonstrate the benefits of increasing mobility. We always recommend that you consult your physician when commencing any exercise plan.

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