Sitting is the New Smoking: Get Active during the Holidays
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 26, Dec 2013
How active are you on a regular day? Some time ago I saw this nice video, which asks a simple question: how much time do you spend sitting each day? Take a few minutes to watch it, please, then continue reading.
Most of us spend around 8 hours a day sitting, due to the nature of our jobs, and for a large number of people this is quite unlikely to change over the next few months or years. Theoretically, having a sedentary job isn’t necessarily so bad – you sit at your desk for 8 hours, then have another 16 hours left for other activities, including exercising. But of these 16 hours, 6 to 8 are reserved for sleeping.
So how much time do we have, in reality, for physical activities? No, it’s not 8 hours, as we also need to (sit at the table and) eat, (sit in the car and) drive to and back from the office and (sit in front of the computer) read the latest news. All these involve sitting, so it’s very likely for our spare time to be reduced to 2-3 hours a day.
How active are we?
A very popular headline these days says that sitting is the new smoking. Apparently, 40% of all adults in America do no form of exercise during the day, and the percentage is even higher in the age groups 16-19, respectively 60 years and above. These people spend most of their time in a chair or on the couch, hence the expression “couch potatoes”.
- 43.3% of Americans don’t meet the recommendations for exercising or practicing a form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day;
- In Europe the percentage drops to 24.8%;
- 30% of the Middle East population is sedentary;
- 27% of adults in Africa practice no form of exercise;
- Situation is quite similar in Australia, where 38% of adults meet the daily recommendations for physical activity, while 40% practice no exercise at all.
Why should we care about these numbers? Because sitting IS the new smoking. This is more than a marketing line, it’s a reality and we can only understand how damaging sitting is for our bodies by getting familiar with its effects on health.
Sitting increases the risk of chronic diseases, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, it weakens the muscles and bones, making one more prone to fractures, increases the prevalence of depression, stroke and early death. On the other hand, physical exercises are able to reduce these risks, to lower the likelihood of cognitive decline in adults and even to fight certain forms of cancer!
Moreover, a very recent study showed that physical exercises practiced on a daily basis act similarly to drugs in people with diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In simpler words, exercises and drugs have the same effectiveness!
Still, it’s worth mentioning that even in people who are physically active for 30 minutes a day, risk of chronic diseases is a lot higher if they spend the rest of the day sitting. This study for example shows that sitting for prolonged intervals can compromise the effectiveness of physical exercises, so it’s important to stand up as often as possible and to get active even for a few minutes, after every hour spent sitting.
Given below are some recommendations on how to get more active during the Holidays, but we welcome your suggestions as well, so please feel free to add them in the comments section.
How to get active during the Holidays
1. Walk instead of driving, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. According to the Centers for Diabetes Control and Prevention, a 150-pound person can burn up to 10 calories per minute while walking upstairs.
2. Exercise while your cookies are baking. Whether it’s only 10 minutes or 1 hour, it’s still better than being completely sedentary and lying on the couch.
Do some jumping jacks, mountain climbers, push-ups, crunches or simply skip rope for 10 minutes, as this will raise your heart rate and boost your metabolic rate, helping your burn more calories. Also, your muscles and bones will be thankful for these exercises, as people who practice physical activities daily are less likely to suffer from weak bones and muscles.
3. If you’re into music, play some tempting tunes and dance around or work out while listening to your favorite songs. You can also use your workout app or exercise DVDs if you lack ideas for new exercises, but make sure to pick motivational rhythms and videos. Working out at home can be just as effective as hitting the gym, so take advantage of every free minute to do some simple exercises.
4. Clean the house, this keeps you active without being an exhausting activity. You’ll get lots of squatting, bending, twisting and running up and down the stairs, which means you’ll get your heart pumping faster and revive your metabolism at the same time.
5. Play with the kids, they have plenty of energy so they’ll keep you active as well, if you join their games. If possible, play outside, as this way your lungs will get plenty of fresh air, your eyes will relax and your mood will be enhanced as well.
6. Go ice skating or skiing, these sports are not only fun but also excellent choices for staying active and burning some additional calories during the cold season. Still, if you’re not into sports, unconventional “exercises” such as caroling or playing in the snow can also be efficient, as they keep you moving.
If you’re willing to get more active, finding fun ways of exercising during the Holidays is actually quite easy, even for those of you with very busy schedules, so make sure to add exercising to your agenda each and every day and to make time for physical activities. Also, do your best to stand up every 60 minutes if you have a sedentary job, and to insert some simple exercises in your schedule, after every hour spent sitting.
We wish you an active Holiday!