Sitting is the NEW Smoking

What a crazy title right?

Hi guys! I haven’t written in quite some time, and it’s been incredibly busy with work, school, and life. However, I’m glad that more people seem to be interested in my posts. I’m so new at it, that it’s surprising to me that people would even look at my blogs.

However, moving on to my crazy title. One of my loves, is to share some new popular topics that relate to chronic disease and public health. It’s something that I find isn’t publicized as often as what’s been on the news lately such as what’s going on in Flint, Michigan or the Zika Virus, which let me tell you are all important topics.

Most of us adults, even college students, have been known to be sitting a lot more than in the past. In fact, statistics have shown that sitting is almost as bad as smoking, and the reason behind the statement, is that sitting leads to a lot of physical inactivity. This ultimately leads to many chronic diseases that are preventable, including diabetes and heart disease.

The other day, my colleagues brought to me a harsh statistic.

1 in 2 Latino children will get type 2 diabetes. (Source: Wolfe , Lahle A. “1 in 2 Hispanic Children May Develop Diabetes.” World Diabetes Day USA. 1 Oct. 2009.)

And the week before, it was this:

In California, over 13 million adults, many of them young adults age 18-35 have been either diagnosed with pre-diabetes, or have undiagnosed pre-diabetes. (Source: http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/publications/search/pages/detail.aspx?PubID=1472)

Shocking, but unfortunately for me NOT surprising.

Prior to these statistics, research has shown just how physically inactive Americans are. This is all ages. There are many reasons, and rather than go into the reasons as to why Americans have been a nation of sitting, what I want to concentrate on is that we sit too much!

Think about it for one second. How many hours do you sit each day? If you work in an office, for the most part, you’re sitting for at least 5-6 hours a day; unfortunately, this is for those who have only an 8 hour work day. Also, this also counts lunch.

For you college and grad students out there — on average, you sit in a lecture for about 4 hours a day, maybe longer depending on your class schedule, and we haven’t even started talking about studying, where for the most part you are sitting.

Its sad, considering that I haven’t even talked about a lot of other areas either.

However, the fact of the matter is that our lifestyle of sitting is a problem that really needs to be changed because it has such high risks and it’s what’s also causing our incredibly high rates of obesity. Yes, diet is another factor, there’s no doubt that Americans are eating high fatty, sugary, and calorie rich diets. However, the whole sedentary sitting lifestyle plays an incredibly huge factor to obesity and higher risk of chronic disease then ever before.

So, how can we combat this you may ask?

To my fellow workers who work in the offices — PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do get up and take as stretch break. When I mean stretch break, I don’t mean stretch the arms and be done either. Here are some ideas:

  1. If it’s available, get an ergonomic assessment and if you can ask for it, ask for a sitting/standing desk. I’m not asking you to stand for 8 hours a day, or permanently stand, but what I’m saying is that rather than sitting for the entire day, on the computer, stand and do your work. It actually helps after lunch from the food coma that you may get, or in the mornings when you’re more sleepy.
  2. Promote walking meetings. If you walk and talk, surprisingly, you’re exercising. It’s good to have that, weather permitting of course.
  3. Taking walking breaks. Most people do get 15 minute breaks between the 4 hour morning and afternoon shifts, rather than use it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, utilize it to take a walk around the block. Bring a colleague, you’d be surprised by how much you can walk in 15 minutes.
  4. Chair workouts — A lot of people think chair workouts for for those who are older and perhaps those who are a bit limited in motion, which is true, these exercises are great because you get exercise while decreasing risk of injury. However, there are many chair workouts that actually provide cardio workouts even! Check out sparkpeople.com as well as on YouTube. There are some great chair workouts that one can do (even on a 15 minute break) that can allow you to move rather than simply sit.

To my fellow school folks — Same thing, you need to move, despite being a lot younger. In fact, to build a habit of not having such a sedentary lifestyle can help you as you get older and transition into the work environment (I’m talking to both the undergrads and the grads). Now, most of you have the luxury of the school gym. However, if you don’t like the gym, the above list applies to you as well. I just came back from Starbucks, studying cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, and I was sitting/standing in the higher table top areas. I stood for about 2.5 hours, out of the 5 hours I was there. But, here’s some tips for you guys out there!

  1. Lab rats — yes, I know you exist, and I know you are analyzing data, but having been a lab tech in school and a researcher as a profession, you sit a lot. If you can, stand when you pipette and run those PCRs. If you are swabbing bacteria, same thing. Stand and work.
  2. Walk to class in the mornings as opposed to taking the bus. Another alternative is biking. I don’t always recommend the night time/evening walks, only because I’m weary of safety (Ladies!). That’s not to say that I don’t recommend it, if it is safe, then by all means, feel free. I am just weary of safety issues in the dark with so many reports of assaults and muggings, so please be careful. For the fall and wintery mornings, the same thing — please be safe!
  3. Studying — Take a standing break every hour. There are many postings about how one can study and focus for about an hour and then you need a break. Rather than youtubing or hulu-ing or whatever else you can do in the break after an extensive 1 hour study session, stand, walk, and just do something that doesn’t require you sitting.
  4. Take the stairs — I know there are elevators, and it’s convenient. However, walking up and down the stairs actually is quite beneficial for when you are going to class (get that adrenaline and heart rate going!)

I know some people prefer not to because of insecurity and starting out is always the most difficult. However, for the sake of your health, starting and somehow building up a less sedentary lifestyle is the start of being a lot more healthier than simply sitting and do more SITTING.

For all the public health folks, fashionistas, beauty geeks, photographers, and college/grad school folks, this is for you.We are such a sitting generation/lifestyle trend…that sitting is the NEW smoking. Let’s change that for our sakes.

Other tips to less sitting that you do is greatly appreciated! 🙂

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