Repost: Sitting is the New Smoking

Feb 16 8:00am | Dr. Melanie Chandler, HABIT FL Director | @drmelaniechandler | Comments (18)

Couch Potato

In deciding on a repost for this week, I came across this one from Michelle Graff-Radford, our yoga instructor at Mayo Florida, from pre-pandemic days.  I thought, with so many folks stuck at home and shut off from their usual gym memberships, this piece on the dangers of sitting too much was really on point.  Let us know how you are staying active despite being stuck at home!

When you think about the dangers in your life, you probably don’t think about sitting. Being a “couch potato” seems innocuous, but according to health experts, prolonged periods of sitting have been linked to serious health problems.

Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, coined the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking”. Any extended sitting —in a car, at a computer or in front of a screen — can be harmful.

Research has documented that sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Studies have found decreased hip mobility is one of the main reasons that older people tend to fall. Chronic sitters have tight hip flexor muscles and weakening of the legs.

In addition, researchers from UCLA discovered that adults without dementia who spent more time sitting in the day had greater thinning of an area of the brain that is important for making memories (medial temporal lobe).

Exercise is not enough!

Research shows that although exercise is very positive it doesn’t negate the damage done by extended periods of sitting. Cardiology experts reviewing evidence in the journal Circulation say “no amount of physical activity is enough to combat the dangerous health effects of sitting for hours each day.”

The cure for the negative effects of sitting isn’t exercising more. It’s sitting less. Of course, this doesn’t mean that regular exercise is unimportant for your health. Rather, it is important to do both regular exercise and reduce sitting time.

What else can you do?

Research demonstrates that interrupting bouts of sitting is an important way to improve health.

Some tips include:

  • Five minutes of standing activities (walking the dog, folding laundry or taking out the trash) for every hour of sitting is sufficient to combat sedentary behavior.
  • Set alarms on your phone to remind you to stand up and move every hour.
  • Walk around while talking on your phone.
  • Stand up during television ads and walk around the room.
  • A short walk (10 minutes) after each meal reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Take the stairs when that is an option.

One simple lifestyle change: reducing the time you spend sitting is the key to a dramatic difference to your physical and mental health. You have the key!

Question: Is it advantageous to use one of those pedal machines while sitting. I love to read and knit and those are sedentary hobbies. Getting up for five minutes for every hour is doable, but would it also help to use pedals for rest of time I may be sitting?

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@wifey

Question: Is it advantageous to use one of those pedal machines while sitting. I love to read and knit and those are sedentary hobbies. Getting up for five minutes for every hour is doable, but would it also help to use pedals for rest of time I may be sitting?

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always good to use pedal devices

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@wifey

Question: Is it advantageous to use one of those pedal machines while sitting. I love to read and knit and those are sedentary hobbies. Getting up for five minutes for every hour is doable, but would it also help to use pedals for rest of time I may be sitting?

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There is some benefit to your circulation from the pedal machines. Vigorous pedaling can add some cardio benefit as well, but hard to do while reading or knitting. Another consideration is that weight-bearing is a key factor in exercise effectiveness, especially in preventing osteoporosis. And exercise variety is important as well – adding stretching, flexibility & mild weight training.
So perhaps it would be best to consider a pedal machine as one component of fitness. Perhaps you can fid some on-line books or TED talks to listen to while walking, stretching, etc to add variety?
Sue

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I would like to hear alternatives for those with knee/leg problems. That much walking would cause problems for some of us.

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Hello @kathleen123,

I see that you are looking for exercises that won't hurt your legs and knees. Are you familiar with chair exercise programs. There are a lot of them pictured on YouTube that you can follow. Here is a link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91ABO4utqkA.
You can find others like this on YouTube.

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Thanks! I actually do those workouts most days. But from what I’ve read about this sitting too much problem, it isn’t enough to exercise once a day.

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@hopeful33250

Hello @kathleen123,

I see that you are looking for exercises that won't hurt your legs and knees. Are you familiar with chair exercise programs. There are a lot of them pictured on YouTube that you can follow. Here is a link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91ABO4utqkA.
You can find others like this on YouTube.

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@hopeful2020 what about those of us who can’t move much without our bodies declaring war on us.

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@kathleen123

Thanks! I actually do those workouts most days. But from what I’ve read about this sitting too much problem, it isn’t enough to exercise once a day.

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Try to do stretching, yoga, etc more than once a day – many smaller 5-10 minute sessions are as beneficial as one longer one, and probably more so if you tend to sit a lot. As for knee/leg pain, can you pedal a bicycle? A stationery bike with adjustable tension is a great option – it doesn't need to be big & fancy with a lot of electronics. And start SMALL – baby steps – when I started pain therapy last summer, I was given one new exercise weekly to add to my regimen – sometimes only 5 reps. The same after hand surgery – one new task at a time over 8 weeks…
Now I have a series of stretches I do before I even get out of bed, more with morning coffee & in the shower, and 3 times a week resistance bands (bad arthritis – weights are not an option.)
Sue

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@sueinmn

Try to do stretching, yoga, etc more than once a day – many smaller 5-10 minute sessions are as beneficial as one longer one, and probably more so if you tend to sit a lot. As for knee/leg pain, can you pedal a bicycle? A stationery bike with adjustable tension is a great option – it doesn't need to be big & fancy with a lot of electronics. And start SMALL – baby steps – when I started pain therapy last summer, I was given one new exercise weekly to add to my regimen – sometimes only 5 reps. The same after hand surgery – one new task at a time over 8 weeks…
Now I have a series of stretches I do before I even get out of bed, more with morning coffee & in the shower, and 3 times a week resistance bands (bad arthritis – weights are not an option.)
Sue

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@sueinmn. This is a great article, and I really appreciate your comments. They nudged me to get going with being more active a few minutes at a time and building up from there. I get winded from climbing a flight of stairs (paralyzed diaphragm) and have been reluctant to even start using the exercise thing I got for fear a few minutes at a time wouldn't be worthwhile and I'd wear myself out if I tried more. I've found your posts across different threads to be so kind, comforting, informative, and encouraging, even though you are going through some extremely difficult times yourself. I'm really sorry about that and so admire your spirit and ability to help others as you are dealing with serious health challenges yourself. In our quest to take things a day at a time, I hope this is a good day for you. Thanks and best wishes, Nancy

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@nla4625

@sueinmn. This is a great article, and I really appreciate your comments. They nudged me to get going with being more active a few minutes at a time and building up from there. I get winded from climbing a flight of stairs (paralyzed diaphragm) and have been reluctant to even start using the exercise thing I got for fear a few minutes at a time wouldn't be worthwhile and I'd wear myself out if I tried more. I've found your posts across different threads to be so kind, comforting, informative, and encouraging, even though you are going through some extremely difficult times yourself. I'm really sorry about that and so admire your spirit and ability to help others as you are dealing with serious health challenges yourself. In our quest to take things a day at a time, I hope this is a good day for you. Thanks and best wishes, Nancy

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Nancy – Give yourself a pat on the back! Trying to exercise with physical challenges is hard, but if you take your "baby steps" you'll find it worthwhile. Maybe your brain & lungs can work together to "overcome" the effect of your paralyzed diaphragm? Have you had any PT or OT to help you?
The body is an amazing "machine" and you may find that by pushing a little at a time, your endurance will improve.
I compare it to a person with a brain injury – if one part of brain is damaged, you can challenge another part to take over (at least part of) the function. So it is with my lungs – I have part that is damaged, so I work to strengthen the rest to increase breathing capacity – now I can jog along with my little grandson for a block or more – 3 years ago this month I could barely walk from my little house in Texas to the clubhouse 150 feet away.
Good luck.
Sue

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@sueinmn

Nancy – Give yourself a pat on the back! Trying to exercise with physical challenges is hard, but if you take your "baby steps" you'll find it worthwhile. Maybe your brain & lungs can work together to "overcome" the effect of your paralyzed diaphragm? Have you had any PT or OT to help you?
The body is an amazing "machine" and you may find that by pushing a little at a time, your endurance will improve.
I compare it to a person with a brain injury – if one part of brain is damaged, you can challenge another part to take over (at least part of) the function. So it is with my lungs – I have part that is damaged, so I work to strengthen the rest to increase breathing capacity – now I can jog along with my little grandson for a block or more – 3 years ago this month I could barely walk from my little house in Texas to the clubhouse 150 feet away.
Good luck.
Sue

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@sueinmn. You are such an inspiration. Thanks. I'll report back in a couple of month hopefully with good news. Nancy

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@wifey

Question: Is it advantageous to use one of those pedal machines while sitting. I love to read and knit and those are sedentary hobbies. Getting up for five minutes for every hour is doable, but would it also help to use pedals for rest of time I may be sitting?

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So pleased you have found a way to increase your circulation.The pedal machine as Sue mentioned has benefits as one component of exercise. One caution is that some people "sway" from side to side when they pedal .Ensure that you are sitting up straight and focus on using your legs trying to avoid swaying.

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