There is a new scientific movement on the health and wellness horizon that I want to share with you. It is the concept of Too Much Sitting. Researchers have identified two major health risks: too much sitting and too little exercise; and both are significant risks for your health and your waistline.

We are seemingly more health conscious than ever with gyms and get-fit workout products at an all-time high. Yet, as a population, the U.S. is getting sicker and fatter each year. In fact, experts are now saying that our children will be the first generation in history to be sicker than their parents.

One basic problem is that we are sitting way too much – and it is killing us. Modern life in America is generally pretty sedentary. We are spending more and more time in front of computers, sitting behind a desk at work, and lounging on the sofa at home watching TV. We’ve all heard that TV viewing is linked with increased waist line circumference (a nice way to say fat), heightened blood pressure and abnormal glucose metabolism (the harbinger of diabetes). Not that surprising if you think about it.

What really opened my eyes is a new term researchers have coined: Active Couch Potato Phenomenon. Research found that the risks of so much time sitting are significant even among those of us who are doing the recommended amount of exercise. In other words, you can be doing the right stuff – 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 days a week, but if the other 80% of your day is spent in a non-active, sedentary state – YOU ARE STILL AT RISK. To optimize your health and wellness, you must get moving!

Sitting too much is so dangerous that the more time you spend sitting, the higher your risk of dying from all causes. ALL causes! So get moving not just for your waistline, but for your life. Take advantage of any and all opportunities to walk, stretch and stand. Not only will you control your fat and shrink your waistline, you will also be healthier and stronger than ever before. And you’re never too old to start.

As a pain management physician, I see patients all day long who are dealing with varying degrees of physical pain on a regular basis. I encourage the majority of them to MOVE as part of their treatment. I ask patients to describe their regular exercise programs and how strong they feel. Often many will answer strongly with pride, yet when they get out of the office chair, their legs are so weak, they have to use their arms to stand up. What good is their daily exercise when they spend the rest of the day sitting and getting weaker by the minute?

No wonder they tell me their knees and hips hurt, their balance is bad and their legs are getting weaker. Old age doesn’t cripple us, inactivity does. We unconsciously move less as we get older. Be aware of how you move (or don’t) through the day. Instead of just sitting in front of the TV, use the time to stretch or play catch with the dog. Iron or do dishes. Do something. Do anything that adds a bit of calorie burn and movement to your day. Research has shown that even sitting reading a book burns more calories than sitting in front of the TV screen. This is one time that multi-tasking is a good thing. If the TV needs to be on in the background, fine. But don’t let it be the primary focus of your free time.

I recommend that you continue your regular exercise regime but remember, after your thirty minutes at the gym is over, you are not off the hook. Consider what are you doing for the other 23 hours and 30 minutes of each day? To optimize your health and wellness, find simple, easy ways to GET MOVING. These simple lifestyle choices are far more important than any pill your doctor can prescribe. Only you have the power to control your life and maintain your good health.

Simple Tips to Get Moving for Weight Loss and Good Health

  • Brush your teeth standing on one leg – strengthens legs and core, improves balance
  • Stand to put on your shoes and socks to practice your balance and build strength
  • Do not use your arms to help you get out of a chair, use your legs
  • Do deep knee bends while you are waiting for the coffee to brew or the microwave to finish
  • Stand on one leg while you’re in line at the grocery store (no one will know)
  • Keep your shoulders back to minimize shoulder pain and injury

Dr. Ruth is a noted fitness expert, wellness consultant and pain management specialist and author of “Get Moving! Live Better, Live Longer.” Desert Pain Specialists can be reached at 760.625.1960

Medical Hazards of Prolonged Sitting (Bassett, David R. Jr.; Freedson, Patty; Kozey, Sarah); Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews. 38(3):101-102, July 2010.

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