As the new year begins, it’s time for Floridians (along with the rest of the country) to think about those resolutions.
Stop smoking, don’t text and drive, drink less alcohol.
These are great and all have been shown to increase our chances to live longer. But here’s a new one to add to your list: sit less in 2013.
Numerous studies in the US, Britain and Australia have now linked sitting for long periods of time with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
In the July issue of Lancet, Dr. I-Min Lee and colleagues concluded that a sedentary lifestyle (that is, sitting too much) is causing as many deaths as smoking around the world. The authors stated that doctors should advise their patients about the dangers of inactivity rather than just reminding them of the benefits of being active.
While the American Heart Association still recommends that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (for example, brisk walking or biking or) at least 5 days a week, experts are now beginning to understand that extended sitting (more than a few hours) such as at a desk or behind the wheel, may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.
At this year’s American Heart Association meetings in Los Angeles, Dr. Britta Larsen, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, reported on a study of 504 Americans over age 65.
The results of CT scans showed that the more time spent sitting, the more excess fat was deposited around the participants’ hearts.
This so-called pericardial fat, which Larsen attributed to excess sitting, is known to be related to cardiovascular disease. Moreover, for those individuals who sat for prolonged periods, regular exercise reduced fat around other organs, but not around the heart.
Larsen concluded that sitting and exercise seem to be two distinct behaviors and that for anyone who wants to prevent the buildup of unhealthy fat deposits around the heart, exercise may not be enough.
For those Floridians who are retired, there are plenty of outlets for leaving the couch and getting on your feet including golf, tennis, biking, and swimming.
However, for those still working a desk job (even if you work from home), consider ways to stand and move around while at work. That might mean standing to answer phone calls, taking walks at lunch, using the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, or even try switching to a standing desk like the one pictured above.
Moving around has many benefits. Besides burning more calories which can lead to weight loss and increased energy, the muscle activity required for standing and other movement potentiates the breakdown of fats and sugars in the body.
Bottom line, resolve to sit less and move more this year! You’ll feel better and hopefully, live longer.