How to Sit Less and Why It's Important
The benefits of exercise and a healthy diet are well documented. Most of us hear them repeated by our primary care physician. In recent years, researchers have identified another negative behavior that plays a vital role in healthy aging: sitting too much. It is so important that some experts refer to a sedentary lifestyle as the new smoking epidemic.
Spending too much of your day sitting has been linked to health conditions such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes.
Research shows a person’s risk of early death is directly impacted by how much time they spend sitting each day. The lowest risk of early death was found among middle-aged adults and seniors who sat for 30 minutes or less at a time.
Spending less time seated does not mean you have to rigorously exercise or stand for long periods of time. You just need to avoid sitting. This is good news for older adults who may have mobility challenges or difficulty with balance.
7 Tips for Sitting Less Each Day
Here are a few suggestions to help ensure you spend less time seated every day:
- Stretch breaks: If you are watching television or working on your computer for long periods of time, take frequent breaks. Get up and stretch or walk around the room every 30 minutes.
- Phone time: When you are talking on the phone, stay on your feet. Stand and look out the window, walk up and down the hallway, or do a few squats while holding on to the kitchen counter. The goal should be to not sit down while talking.
- Daily walk: Walking is a great form of exercise. It improves strength, balance, and stamina. Find a few places you feel comfortable walking and invite a friend or family member to join you each day.
- Senior dog: Pets keep us more active, especially canine companions. While a puppy might be too active for an older adult, adopting an older dog can be an ideal solution.
- Time and steps: Many retired people aren’t aware of how much time they spend sitting and how few steps they take in a day. Start paying attention to what time you sit down and rise. It may help to purchase a fitness tracker that not only monitors how many steps you take, but also alerts you if you’ve been sitting too long.
- Rethink television: Instead of just sitting on the couch while you watch television, put the time to more productive use. Dust the living room. March in place. Ride on a stationary or recumbent bike.
- Child’s play: Children keep us active and young at heart. If your grandchildren aren’t close enough to play with a few times a week, consider volunteering for a local children’s nonprofit organization or helping out in the nursery at your church or synagogue.
Our final tip is to be more aware of your behavior. When you are about to sit down, ask yourself if you really need to. Sometimes sitting too much is nothing more than a bad habit you can overcome.
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