Do you ever think about how much time you spend sitting in your favorite chair every day? Whether you’re working on the computer throughout the day or just relaxing in the evening watching television for a few hours, chances are you spend more time than you realize in a seated position.
In fact, a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic revealed that 50 to 70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting every day. Another study by Vanderbilt University estimates that the average American spends 55 percent of waking time, or 7.7 hours per day, in a seated position. This sedentary lifestyle is having a large impact on our health and is linked to a variety of conditions including diabetes, physical disabilities, cognitive decline, and even some cancers.
The fact is the human body was designed for movement. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, and before the advent of cars, people walked practically everywhere. While the rise of technology has made life easier in many ways, it has also resulted in a decline in our physical activity levels.
Sitting disease is the term used to link the 34 chronic conditions that are commonly associated with lack of activity due to excessive sitting. Because of the physical effects of aging, seniors in particular often find it more difficult to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. In fact, research shows that just one out of four adults between the ages of 65 and 74 participate in regular fitness programs.
However, if you were to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting every day for less than three hours, you may be able to increase your life expectancy by up to two years. Additionally, if you limit time spent in front of the television to less than two hours a day, you’d gain back 1.4 years of your life.
The good news is that it’s never too late to get moving, and there are plenty of exercises seniors of all abilities can participate in. If you’re wondering if you’re at risk for sitting disease, symptoms include:
Poor Posture: Sitting all day at a desk or on the sofa causes your neck and shoulders to naturally slump forward, and eventually, your musculoskeletal system will conform to this shape.
Weight Gain: The less you move, the slower your metabolism becomes, leading to gaining weight and an increase in conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that you burn 50 more calories per hour standing versus sitting. Plus, when you stand, your core is engaged to keep you upright, which helps slim your waistline.
Chronic Fatigue: Are you feeling sleepy all the time? Having a tough time focusing? The more you sit, the more your energy levels decrease. However, your blood sugar levels increase, which leads to that chronic sleepy feeling, especially for diabetics.
Back or Spinal Injuries: Sitting for extended periods of time also has a detrimental effect on your back and spine. Your spine requires movement to stay healthy, so the soft disks between the vertebrae expand and contract to keep soaking up blood and nutrients. The less you move, the more brittle those disks become, and the more at risk you are for an injury.
Remember to move as much as possible throughout the day. Take quick breaks from the computer or the television to go on a brief walk or march in place in your living room. Adding movement to your daily routine doesn’t have to mean starting a rigorous fitness program, it can be as simple as getting up from the chair or couch as often as possible, like during commercial breaks or every time a show ends.
Members of Advent Christian Village enjoy wellness and enrichment at Copeland Community Center, where our professionally-trained staff creates personalized health and fitness programs with your individual goals in mind. Contact us today to learn more about our living options, or schedule a personal tour.