Overcoming the “Sitting Disease”

Extra, Extra, read all about it! America has been overcome by a deadly disease: the sitting disease. 


It may sound a little ridiculous, and many of you have probably asked this simple question: is sitting really killing us?


The short answer: yes, sitting is REALLY killing us, but not in an overt way. Death by sitting occurs slowly, over time. 


Before we get into sitting and how it is a contributor to death rates in America, let’s look at what lack of movement causes and how it is impacting the vast majority of the country.


According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), 6 in 10 adults in America have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 adults have 2 or more. Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limited activities of daily living or both.


Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are also the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.3 trillion annual health care costs. 


But what causes these diseases? For the majority of individuals who suffer from the aforementioned diseases, obesity is the leading cause. Currently 30.1% of Americans are obese, and in Delaware that number is more than doubled with 68.5% of Delawearians being overweight or obese. 


The link between the “sitting disease” and obesity is obvious: lack of movement and activity coupled with poor diet leads to obesity. 


But what about getting my steps in?


With the fad of step-tracking seemingly taking over, most Americans think that by constantly hitting their 10,000 steps they will be healthy. The reality is that although moving more throughout the day is good and being aware of your movement is awesome, movement DOES NOT equal exercise. 


So what IS considered exercise?


Well, according to the CDC adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, as well as engage in muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.


Currently only 19% of adults meet the aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines. 


But how did we get this way? We weren’t always sedentary.


So what changed?


Our culture changed. Before the industrial revolution, Americans revolved around movement and activity. They had to in order to survive. Between growing and harvesting their own food and hunting their own meat, there was little time to sit around. When the Industrial Revolution came around, more and more Americans succumbed to the new factory jobs, many of which required sitting for 8-12 hours a day. 


As technological advances continued this didn’t change. If anything, more and more jobs became sedentary. When television and computers were invented even our leisure time turned into hours of sitting in front of a screen, only moving to get something from the fridge or go to the bathroom.


Today, the average American sits 11 hours a day (this is a modest number as most people sit for work and sit at home). 65% or Americans watch 2 or more hours of TV every day. If you really think about it the reason most people walk is to simply move to a new sitting position.


In the morning we get up to go sit in our cars to drive to work, where we sit. When we leave work we get up to go sit in our cars again to go home, where more likely than not we will sit and eat and then sit and watch TV and then go to bed. That’s a whole lot of sitting.


This sitting and lack of activity leads to premature death and the development of chronic diseases. 20% of all deaths of people 35 and older are attributed to a lack of physical activity, amounting to 300,000 deaths annually. 


The solution is simple in concept, challenging in execution: we need to exercise more and eat better. Period.


Even without taking into consideration poor diet, most people can see tremendous benefits from adding 30 minutes of exercise a day to their routine. Just 30 minutes can do a lot: 30 minutes reduces the progression of diabetes by 50%; 30 minutes a day reduces stress and anxiety by 48%; even 1 hour of exercise a week reduces your chance of heart disease by at least 50%.

So what are some tips that can help you get your exercise in?

  1. Schedule resistance training 2-3 times per week. Actually put it in your schedule, on your calendar, that way you know you have time for it.

  2. Find someone to hold you accountable. Whether that be a friend, or a trainer. Most people fail to reach their goals because of a lack of support and accountability.

  3. Be more active and walk or do something outside every single day! Incorporate your family and make it a fun event to get fit together!


Just remember that health is a journey. Every day, every sip, every meal you determine whether you become healthier or unhealthier; whether you move closer to your goals or further away from them.


What choice will you make today?


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