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Posted September 6, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Sitting can become a bad habit

By Karen Ridings - ridingsk@vt.edu

Have you heard of "sedentarism"? In the August issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Matthew Fox discusses "sedentarism" and the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. "Sedentarism" can be thought of as the opposite of being physically active.

How would you rate your lifestyle? In a 24-hour period, do you find yourself mostly engaged in low energy activities such as desk work, TV viewing, reading, sleeping and/or sitting in front of the computer? If you have answered "yes" to this question, then you have a sedentary lifestyle. Do you do some form of exercise at least 30 minutes each day? If you have answered "no" to this question, then you have a sedentary lifestyle. What does this mean for your overall health?

Significant amounts of research now indicate that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and premature death. One of the most important muscles in the body is the heart muscle. Like any muscle in your body, it needs to be exercised to stay healthy and strong. As the old saying goes..."use it or lose it."

Today, many people have sedentar- style jobs and engage in forms of entertainment that require little movement, such as TV viewing and computer games. People who have sedentary lifestyles typically complain of having "no energy" and easily gain weight. There are some easy ways to incorporate physical activity into the day regardless of the job you have. Here are some tips:

  1. If you have desk job, take a standing break every hour. Stretch and move your limbs. Walk to the water cooler.
  2. Try taking an early morning walk before getting ready for work.
  3. Walk at lunch. If walking is a new form of exercise, try starting with 10 minutes. Add 5 minutes each week. Ideally, build up to 30 minutes each day.
  4. After dinner, take a 15-minute stroll before you sit down to relax in front of the TV or computer.
  5. Take a commercial break to move. Walk around the house, stretch, or do a little housework when commercials come on during your evening TV viewing.
  6. Wear a pedometer. Try to increase the number of steps that you take each day.
  7. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and make it a goal to exercise 30 minutes each day.

Increasing your daily movement each day in combination with a healthful diet will go a long way in keeping you healthy. Break the sitting habit today! Don't let "sedentarism" characterize your lifestyle.

Karen A. Ridings, M.S., R.D., is a family consumer sciences agent located in Frederick County. She joined the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Frederick County office, in January 2008. As a registered dietitian and elementary education teacher, families have always been the primary focus of her career.

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