Posts tagged ‘sedentary lifestyle’

March 26, 2013

You Might Want to Sit Down for This…

by Melissa Harding

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It can be easy to spend most of the day sitting: drive to work, sit at your desk, drive home, sit at home. This is especially true in the winter, when cold temperatures make us feel sluggish, like hibernating bears. Even though it can be wonderfully relaxing to spend the evening hours reading a good book or watching a movie, it may actually be doing more harm than good. The phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is a buzzword in the health community, where more and more research is being done on what has been dubbed “the pandemic of inactivity”. Richard Louv, nature writer, advocate and director of the Children and Nature Network, has just published a short article compiling some recent findings. The results may just shock you right out of your seat.

The average American sits 9.3 hours every day. Out of 24 hours in a day, minus the average 7.7 hours for sleeping, we spend over half of our waking hours on our bottoms. Children, who often do not have control over their actions, have it even tougher. While adults can take a break to walk up and down the halls, take a walking meeting or do some stretching, children are expected to sit still for their entire day at school. Even going to the bathroom requires permission and a hallpass. Although some schools try to get kids moving, time spent in recess is a small portion of the day. That is not to mention the fact that even after work or school many of us spend our leisure time sitting in front of screens. Sitting is so pervasive and natural to us that we don’t question how much of it we should be doing.

So why is all of this sitting a problem? Recently The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, published a series of reports that confirm physical inactivity is a leading risk factor for deaths due to non-communicable diseases.  According to the New York Times, an Australian study found that for each additional hour of television watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent.  Excessive sitting, which the study defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.

While it may seem so, exercise is not the antidote to sitting. When a person is sitting, electrical activity in his muscles drops, which leads to harmful metabolic effects. His calorie-burning rate drops to about one per minute, a third of what it is walking. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing diabetes and obesity rises. This adds up over a lifetime. According to Harold “Bill” Kohl, professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health, “Although regular physical activity is critical for weight control, it is equally or more important for lowering risk of many different chronic diseases such as heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes.”

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Fortunately, there is a solution in sight for all of us: being outside. Nature-based exercise is good for adults and nature-based play is good for children. Some pediatricians and mental health professionals are now prescribing “green exercise” in parks and other natural settings. All this means is that kids should be engaging in more simple outdoor play, climbing trees and playing with sticks. Now that spring is around the corner, it is even easier to find fun things to do outside; planting seeds, stomping in mud puddles and hunting for blooming flowers are great April activities. No matter what outdoor activity sounds fun to you and your family, doing it together will help you stay healthier and more connected to nature.

Here are some resources to get both you and your child more active outside:
Nature Rocks: Find local natural areas, get ideas for fun outdoor activities and connect to other nature lovers
Children and Nature Natural Families Network: Learn how to start a nature club for kids and connect to other parents
Richard Louv’s Resource Supplement to Last Child in the Woods: Outdoor activities, book suggestions and helpful links
Simple Kids: Simple activity ideas to help your child explore the natural world
Home Connections: Try some of our ideas to combine outdoor exploration with fun activities

To learn more about how sitting effects your health, read the rest of Richard Louv’s article at the Children and Nature Network and check out the links to his sources scattered throughout this post.

The above photos are courtesy of brietbart.com via Google Images and Christie Lawry.

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