Taking the pledge to sit less, move more

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By Christopher Brooke

Not to be a hypochondriac or anything, but the increased discussion around “the sitting disease” has soaked in. It sounds like something I’ve already caught.

Folks who read any news at all, like me, have probably been exposed to the growing consensus that inactivity serves as the enemy of good health. 

Thinking back to this past winter, more than once I used the excuse of the weirdly warm and wet weather as an excuse to beg off on my normal goal of walking at least two miles a day. 

This, coupled along with the early fall of darkness, I literally sat out my most regular exercise regimen embarrassingly often from December to around February.

My other habits, like the amount of food I consume, didn’t change, and it appears my metabolism continued to do its job of converting this food to fat to keep me warm for the cold months. It looks like this extra flesh will keep me warm well into summer and perhaps indefinitely.

So, I wonder: Is sitting as bad as smoking? Medical professionals seem to be stepping up their warnings about the health repercussions of doing little or nothing but reclining.

“A growing body of research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity,” according to a WedMD.com article on the subject. “In January 2010, British experts linked prolonged periods of sitting to a greater likelihood of disease. And that same month, Australian researchers reported that each hour spent watching TV is linked to an 18 percent increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease — perhaps because that time is spent sitting down.”

Community organizer Mona Huff, who’s involved in more wellness and elder initiatives than I can count, says the American Diabetes Association wants to take action against the sitting disease. They declared May 3 Get Fit, Don’t Sit Day.

“The American Diabetes Association recommends breaking up sitting time with three or more minutes of light physical activity — such as walking, leg extensions or overhead arm stretches — every 30 minutes,” according to a news release.

This is a societal problem, said Lisa Bellafato, health educator for Passport Health Plan, a sponsor of the non-sitting event.

“On average, people spend five hours and 41 minutes of their workday sitting down,” she said. “Research shows that sitting for long periods of time increases the risks for many health problems, so it’s important that people get up and move during the day. This national event is the perfect way for us to encourage all of our members, as well as all of our associates and all Kentuckians, to get moving and live healthier lives.”

In connection with Get Fit, Don’t Sit, the association offers resources including a welcome guide, ways to become more active, desk moves to help make people active and much more.

“Since our founding more than 75 years ago, the association has promoted the importance of healthy lifestyle choices as a way to manage all types of diabetes and to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes,” said Lisa Edwards, director of the American Diabetes Association Kentucky. “Through National Get Fit, Don’t Sit Day, we call on all Kentuckians to embrace this day of wellness and share the message to expand our reach.”

The evidence against non-activity just keeps piling up, Huff said.

“Lack of activity is causing our chronic diseases to increase at an alarming rate and that includes all age groups,” she noted.  “Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, which is a result of playing too many video games and watching too much TV.  Adults have problems walking just because they have stopped moving. 

“Start today! Start slowly!” she advised. “Increase your activity and join a friend to walk and be accountable to each other. Get up and move and you will be glad that you did.”

Personally, I can’t promise to fully swear off sitting, but I can attest to feeling less healthy after a prolonged lazy period. I might have to bump up my goal from two miles a day to get back on track. 

To learn more, about Get Fit, Don’t Sit, go to diabetes.org/getfitky or call the statewide office at (859) 268-9129.