CornerStone Blog

How to Fight Sedentary Lifestyle and “Sitting Disease”

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Until recently (in terms of human evolution), life and movement were so intertwined it was hard to conceive of them being separate. People literally had to move all day in order to live. Think about it.

Today, modern conveniences and advanced technologies have made life easier and have resulted in more leisure time. But at the same time, our bodies have taken a hit because we’re not as physically active. Here’s a look at “sitting disease,” and how to fight sedentary lifestyle.

Sitting is a modern problem

Less than 150 years ago, most people had to move to satisfy their most basic needs. They had to grow, store and prepare their own food. They typically owned and maintained livestock which required constant care.  In the winter, people had to cut, split and store firewood or shovel coal into furnaces to heat their homes.

iStock-473481952-[Converted].pngBell Telephone wasn’t incorporated until 1878. Even as late as the 1950’s, only about 2/3 of us had a phone in our home.  People had to write letters (or walk to the telegraph office!) if they needed to contact someone sooner than travel would allow.  Most people carried on their normal day to day interactions by walking or riding a horse to see one another. By 1915, there were only about 2 million cars on the roads out of a population of almost 100 million. 

iStock-585287632-[Converted].pngBasic chores, now so easy due to modern conveniences, were hard and time consuming work just a few decades ago.  Imagine not having a vacuum cleaner, let alone electricity, which didn’t become common in urban homes until 1930 (much later in rural areas)!  Maytag didn’t start selling a wooden tub washing machine until 1907 and clothes dryers weren’t widely available until the late 1930’s. 

It’s very easy to come up with a long list of things we do quickly and easily today that required much more physical effort just 100 years ago.

Scary facts

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m no Luddite.  I can’t imagine living without my cell phone, Vitamix blender, and iPod – not to mention indoor plumbing! Without a doubt, these wonderful modern conveniences have made life easier to live and freed human beings up to spend time doing more complex work, indulging our creative sides and enjoying more opportunities for leisure activities.  But, the flip side is that they’ve also taken a toll on our bodies. Here are some scary facts:

Job-Infographic-1.pngSedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950 and physically active jobs now make up only about 25% of our workforce.
The average American spends 55% of their daily life in sedentary behaviors.
The average office worker spends 10 – 12 hours sitting every day.
More than 1/3 of Americans suffer from obesity.
The average American over the age of 2 spends 34 hours a week watching live TV.

Add in time spent messing around with our cell phones, video gaming, and playing with our tablets and other devices, and you realize that modern people in our country spend a lot of time sitting.

What can we do?

Time marches on and there’s no putting this genie back in the bottle, even if we wanted to. So, the question is – how do we take better care of our bodies and start moving more during this modern age? One answer is to get NEAT!

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and includes the movements we use when we go about our daily activities (excluding planned sports or exercise, sleeping and eating). Examples of NEAT include activities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and even fidgeting.

Girl-Dog-walk-1.pngHere are some ways that you can incorporate NEAT into your home life: clean your own house, hand wash your car, take the dog for more frequent walks, hand wash your dishes, line dry your clothes, park further away from your destination when running errands, and choose leisure activities like gardening, woodworking and hiking over things like video gaming.

iStock-844489260-[Converted]-Standing-desk.pngWhile incorporating NEAT at work can be a little more challenging if you work an office job, there are still plenty of things you can do:  get a standing desk, arrange for “walking meetings” with colleagues, take the stairs instead of the elevator, use the water fountain at the far end of the building and take a 5 minute standing/stretch break every hour.

When faced with a choice between the “easy” path which is sitting still and the “hard” path which is moving, always choose moving even if it means taking a little more time to get things done.  Trust me, your body will thank you for it! 

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