How to Fight The Dangers of Our Sedentary Society

As a certified diabetes educator with a large number of my patients in the workforce, I have seen great benefit to their diabetes management and overall health by incorporating some or many of the ideas shared in this article.

Today’s lifestyle

Our current lifestyles look much different from those of our ancestors. With technology advancements and conveniences such as online shopping, groceries delivered to our doorstep, and robots that vacuum our floors, being sedentary has become a major concern for our times. We live in a very complex and busy world, where much is expected and the day never seems to have enough hours to meet demands. Most adults sit in their cars to and from work, sit behind their computers for the majority of their work day, and sit on the couch when they make it home. This adds up to a lot of sitting! Some say that sitting is killing us. “Sitting is a lethal activity,” Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told the New York Times in 2011.

The impact on our health

US adults are sedentary an average of 6-8 hours a day. For adults over 60 years old, this increases to 8.5-9.6 hours per day of sitting. Research shows that when an individual participates in regular exercise, but then sits the rest of the day, the exercise is not enough to combat the multiple unhealthy risk factors that become involved with all the sitting. This is increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The University of Health Network in Toronto, performed a study where researchers reviewed 47 studies, examining the relationship between sitting and mortality. These findings were published in the Journal Annuals of Internal Medicine. They found excessive sitting was associated with an 18 percent increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease, and a 17 percent increased risk of dying from cancer. Sitting for too long was tied to a 91 percent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and about a 14 percent increase risk of being diagnosed with cancer or heart problems . Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Our bodies were meant to move, so how do we combat this problem?

  • Stand while talking on the phone. 
  • Walk down the hall to have a discussion with a colleague rather than calling or sending email.
  • Use part of your lunch break to walk.
  • Look into the options of a standing desk or even a treadmill work station. 
  • Set up walking meetings when able. 
  • Park far from the building and walk to and from work. 
  • Use the stairs each time you use the restroom and every opportunity you have.
  • Look for accountability partnerships amongst other colleagues with similar goals. 
  • Walk in the airport when waiting.
  • Schedule your exercise time on your business calendar so it is known and stick to it.
  • Set an alarm on your computer to go off every hour or hour and a half to remind you to move. 
  • Take your gym bag or walking shoes to work and walk, (workout) immediately after work when traffic is the worst before heading home. 
  • Use a pedometer as a tool to set goals and hold yourself accountable to those goals.

Using a pedometer

One of the most popular current tools to help set and achieve these types of goals is a pedometer. A pedometer is a portable electronic device that counts your steps. Using a pedometer is an easy way to track how active you are and establish new goals to help increase your activity. Ideally, a person wants to first determine their personal baseline number of steps by wearing the pedometer on an average day. From there, add 500 steps to the baseline as an initial goal that is productive and fairly easy to achieve. From that point, increase your goal over time as appropriate. Although the recommended steps is 10,000 per day, this can be overwhelming for some starting much lower at their personal baseline. By using this process everyone can have success in increasing their movement throughout their day and ultimately fight the “sitting disease.” Many individuals find success through establishing challenges with others to help push themselves to achieve new goals. Also, recording steps in a journal or on a calendar daily can help monitor progress over time. 

I hope that this advice will help you as it has helped many of the patients I work with on a daily basis.

Ultimately we need to sit less and move more! 

By: Amy Bradshaw RD, CDE