Yesterday, you read about the latest research into sitting and exercise . The results were shocking, especially for diabetics. Five of the 47 studies looked specifically at the effect of sitting and the risk of developing diabetes. The association found in the research for diabetics with a sedentary lifestyle was the strongest one found in the current studies.
To quote, “Those who spend long hours in sedentary activity are 90 percent more likely than those who don’t to develop type 2 diabetes.” This association was higher than for other illnesses, such as cancer, where the risk of cancer correlated with prolonged sitting increases 13 to 16 percent; and the risk of dying from heart disease as related to sitting is 18 percent.
Unfortunately, the researchers found that the study findings for diabetes were not powerful enough to state whether regular exercise mitigates that risk. But why wait for more proof? Any diabetic knows, though, that you can take a glucose reading before exercise, and you will usually see a drop of anywhere from 10 to 60 points or more after you have exercised moderately.
Unfortunately, the study results did not answer the question of just how much sitting is too much. And what amount of exercise is needed to mitigate the risk of poor health from prolonged sitting. And, there were no answers to who is at the greatest risk from sitting for prolonged periods.
So, what is a person to do? For office workers, the solution is simple:
• Get up more often, even if it is just for a couple of minutes, and walk around the office or your desk.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
• Sit on one of those exercise balls (they do have a somewhat high learning curve for staying on the ball, though).
• Stand up at your desk and do stretches, such as toe touches, reaching overhead, bending from side to side. This is good, too, as you should not be staring at a computer screen for more than 20 minutes at a time.
If you are retired, and for most people in general:
• Look at how much TV you are watching. Rather than guess those hours, keep a log for one week, writing down every 10 min. you spend watching TV. If you can work out while watching, that would be better—on a treadmill, standing and lifting weights, doing exercises that require you to stand up. If you watch commercials, stand up during them.
• Add an after-lunch or after-dinner walk with your spouse or other family members. Don’t automatically retire to the living room couch or computer room.
• Look at your local senior centers for activities. Most have a varied line-up of exercises, dance classes, and other activities that require you to move around.
• Embark on a decluttering program—it is virtually impossible to do that while sitting down.
• Walk with your grandchildren. Show them that they don’t have to be “bored, with nothing to do.”
• If you travel, do not drive for more than 90 minutes at a time. The older you get, the greater your risk for blood clots. Get out of the car, run around the car, do stretches, etc. If you fly, keep yourself hydrated, and get up every 45 min. or so, and do isometric exercises while seated.
If you follow these tips and increase your exercise, you will be improving your quality of life and even extending it. Dr. David Alter, senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and a senior author of the research paper, says that if you monitor how much you sit and try to reduce it by realistic increments every week, you should be able to cut your sedentary time by 2 to 3 hours in a 12-hour day. If that sounds rather ambitious (it did to this weight watcher), aim for 1 hour of less sitting time. So, guys, get that dust mop out and help your spouse. Women–consider doing your own housework if you now hire someone. Dr. Alter also says that getting regular exercise is good for you regardless of what else you do in a day.