Combat that sedentary lifestyle with more movement – Harvard

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. On the positive side, we need to use these organic machines that we live in – our bodies. On the negative side, we need to fight the temptation to slip into a sedentary lifestyle.

closeup photo of person holding panasonic remote control in front of turned on smart television

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Herewith a blog post from Matthew Sloan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

When I was in high school, I mowed my grandmother’s lawn once a week. Yet every time I arrived, she would have already mowed a small part of the back yard. I always told her she didn’t need to do that, but she insisted. At the time I didn’t understand why she felt compelled to do this every week, but now that I’m inching closer and closer to her age then, I get it: it was something she could do to stay active. She knew that to stave off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to move more every day.

The older we get, the more likely we are to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, an estimated 67% of older adults report sitting for more than eight hours per day, and only 28% to 34% of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Evelyn O’Neill, manager of outpatient exercise programs at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, sees the consequences of too much sitting every day. “Sitting is the new smoking in terms of health risks,” she says. “Lack of movement is perhaps more to blame than anything for a host of health problems.”

To delve further into the problem of prolonged sitting check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting?

The dangers of a sedentary liestyle

A sedentary life can affect your health in ways you may not realize. For example, prolonged sitting, like spending hours watching television, can increase your chance of developing venous thrombosis (potentially fatal blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs), according to a study of more than 15,000 people. In fact, people who watched television the most had a 70% greater risk of suffering from venous thrombosis compared with those who never or seldom watched TV.

On the flip side, squeezing in extra movement during the day can have a big impact. For instance, simply standing more can help you lose weight and keep it off, according to a review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Everyday activities that incorporate more walking also can build up your leg muscles, which may help you live longer. Researchers have found that loss of leg muscle strength and mass is associated with slower walking speeds among older adults. Slower speeds are linked to a lower 10-year survival rate for people after age 75.

I want to point out here that my Page – Why you should walk more has tons of positive information on the value of walking.

Simple ways to move more every day

One way to combat the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle is to work small bits of exercise into your daily routine. There are many ways to do this, according to O’Neill. “Even if you aren’t sweating or feeling like you’re working hard, you are still moving your arms and legs, stimulating your muscles, and working your joints,” she says.

Focus on adding just 30 minutes of extra activity into your day, three days a week. “You can break it down into smaller segments, too, like 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening,” says O’Neill. What can you do during that time? Here are some strategies to help you move more every day:

Walk for five minutes every two hours.

Get up and walk around or march in place during TV commercials.

Do a few sets of heel raises, where you stand on your toes. “Try it while you brush your teeth or make breakfast,” says O’Neill.

Always stand or walk around when you’re on the phone.

Do a set or two of push-ups against the kitchen counter. “Your body weight is always a good way to strengthen muscles,” says O’Neill.

Use soup cans as dumbbells and do 10 to 20 reps of biceps curls.

Perform up to 10 reps of stand-and-sit exercises, where you rise from a chair without using your arms and then sit down again to complete one rep.

“Also, look for opportunities to do extra movement during regular errands and chores,” says O’Neill. For instance, save some dirty dishes for hand washing, which works your hands and fingers. Wash your car instead of using the drive-through car wash, park farther away at the grocery store (or better yet, walk to the store and carry groceries home, if possible), sweep and mop more, and do simple yard work like weeding, planting pots, and raking.

“There’s a lot you can do to be more active,” says O’Neill. “Exercise doesn’t always have to be intense to be effective, and there are many opportunities in your daily life to sneak in extra movement. You just need to do it.”

That’s advice my grandmother faithfully followed until she passed away at age 100.


Filed under Exercise, exercise benefits, exercise frequency, sedentary lifestyle

8 responses to “Combat that sedentary lifestyle with more movement – Harvard

  1. Those figures are alarming: that two thirds of people over 65 are not active. I guess it sneaks up on you if you think retiring means… retiring. A stand up desk is a great start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Rachel. Nice to hear from you. Don’t forget that in the general population two thirds of us are overweight and one third are obese. So, people have a running start on leading a sedentary life. As a retired guy in his 70’s, I consider my job to be keeping myself alive. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good morning Tony! It must take such courage to start moving with intent once someone is seriously overweight. You’re doing a great job zooming in on the ever mounting evidence that it’s worth the effort and becomes its own reward. And thus you will have another good day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Rachel. Yes, that old saw about recognizing you have a problem gets you halfway to the solution. It’s a one day at a time deal.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This was really helpful, specific, and clear-cut. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. paigecabianca

    Wow super interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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