The term “sitting is the new smoking” is not an exaggeration.
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” James Levine, MD, PhD. Researcher Mayo Clinic and founder of N.E.A.T.
This is powerful knowledge because anyone can improve health in this way. If you can move, even in a small way, you can improve health by moving often.
Our current environment provides us with many reasons to sit and has led us to the newer science of inactivity. Like opposite sides of the same coin, exercise physiology studies what happens in the body when we move and inactivity physiology studies what happens when we are still. It turns out both studies are critical for understanding health.
The physiology of inactivity has discovered that when we don’t move, things start to back up in the cells. The process to deal with sugar and fats in the blood slows down or halts. Sugar and fats in the blood accumulate and are triggers for disease.
The good news is that it does not take much movement to get the system working again. Simply moving from sitting to standing, taking a short walk, stretching – all activate the muscles’ ability to manage these triggers for disease.
Standing desks are one attempt to fix this problem, but standing still is not much better. Imagine stagnant water, things accumulate. We need to move to get the system working.
If you are an exerciser, no one would call you a couch potato. But…you can be an active couch potato. The chair does not care if you are an exerciser or not – stillness will cause these changes in the body despite your fitness level.
The term lifestyle activity is used to describe how much we move during the day. Getting 10,000 steps a day all at once does not have the same benefit as taking 5000 steps in one shot and then spreading the other 5000 out during the rest of the day.
Trying to lose weight? Add a goal for lifestyle activity in addition to exercise goals. Often, lifestyle activity is a great first step if you are not ready to exercise yet and a great addition if you are exercising but the scale is not budging.
Bottom line – how often we move during the day is as important as how often we exercise in a week. Together, exercise and lifestyle activity are powerful tools for activating well-being.
May You Be Well,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC