Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. ~James Levine, professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard the phrase sitting is the new smoking for years without really understanding it. Regular exercise is important, as we all know. But why has sitting been compared to smoking, a habit often started while young, that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, harms almost every organ in the body and results in more than 7 million yearly deaths worldwide? Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, the site states. That proclamation inspired an aha moment: the comparison is due to the vast number of resulting ill effects which can be prevented.
From the Mayo Clinic, Research has documented that sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Additionally, too much sitting leads to decreased hip mobility, tighter hip flexors, and weaker legs, the article says, setting the stage for falls in aging adults. Further, a sedentary lifestyle leads to a thinning of the part of the brain where memory is formed. Reading about all the harm I could be doing my body has motivated me to break up the time I spend sitting in front of my laptop.
But that’s not all. According to an article on Harvard Health Publishing, a newer study shows the more hours spent sitting at work, driving, lying on the couch watching TV, or engaging in other (sedentary) pursuits, the greater the odds of dying early from all causes. This applies even when the subjects exercise regularly. Pretty frightening, I’d say, especially with the constraints of covid that have dominated for almost 2 years.
So why does prolonged perching result in so much damage? The Heart Foundation offers a few explanations: blood flow decreases, the possibility for blood clots increases, fat processing slows considerably, and insulin resistance becomes more likely. The Hydration Foundation offers another reason: the miles of fascia in our bodies, serving as connective tissue between all of our organs, joints, muscles, etc., also acts as our personal irrigation system. It’s up to us to hydrate (see last week’s post for more on that) and help our fascia move that water to all cells for their daily processing. When this is not done, our cells struggle and can malfunction, leading to the harmful/fatal effects mentioned above.
So, what to do? When you are unable to stand, moving your shoulders, neck, legs, & feet and stretching (see my post on favorite yoga poses, most of which can be done seated) are beneficial, because all movement contributes to healthy functioning. But whenever possible, break up your sitting every half hour with a few minutes of marching in place, walking, or some other activity to get your blood pumping and your internal water moving deep into your cells. This keeps your body happy and in active mode during waking hours, fostering prolonged good health.
Making daily efforts to move more and sit less not only adds years to your life, but also contributes to good physical & mental health for the present and future. The power to prevent many undesirable outcomes is in your hands. Whether you’re 25 or 85, don’t allow sitting to become your new smoking.
You can’t afford to get sick, and you can’t depend on the present health care system to keep you well. It’s up to you to protect and maintain your body’s innate capacity for health and healing by making the right choices in how you live. ~Andrew Weil, MD
Many thanks to our visiting family last week who gave us the opportunity to show off some of the immense beauty of this area! (And, some of these photos may have been taken by them, so thanks again!)
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.