As I rose from my office chair after a day filled with Zoom meetings, I felt like the Tin Man with stiff joints in the “Wizard of Oz.”
Fortunately, my joints didn’t creak and squeak audibly. A can of oil was not necessary. I walked slowly to ease the stiffness from too much sitting.
Most of the time, I have little time between meetings to walk the hallways a few minutes to refresh my body and mind. Yes, I could stand during online meetings. I will have to start turning off my camera and standing.
Have you ever added up the time you spend sitting? Let’s try an activity. You might want to use a calculator to add the minutes and hours spent sitting.
Think about yesterday. After getting up in the morning, did you sit down while eating breakfast or watching or reading the morning news? If you commute to work, how many minutes did you spend in your vehicle?
How many hours did you spend sitting at a computer during work or leisure time? How many hours did you spend watching TV or playing video games? You probably ate a couple more times during the day while seated, too.
How many hours were you sedentary yesterday?
Some researchers say that reaching a level of 10 hours of sitting per day can increase your risk for heart disease and other medical conditions.
For many people, the pandemic situation has not helped our level of activity, especially for people who have been quarantined.
We have had many technological advances that have made being sedentary quite easy.
When I was young, remote controls on TVs did not exist. You had to get off the couch to change the channel. As the youngest family member, I was the remote control.
We didn’t have voice-activated devices to turn lights on and off. Our phones were not in our pockets but often were on the wall in another room.
The number of sedentary jobs has increased 83% since the 1950s, according to the American Heart Association. With changes in technology, many people have moved to “desk jobs.”
In 2017, researchers published a study about sitting in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers noted that one in four adults sits for more than eight hours a day. Four in 10 adults did not exercise to any degree weekly.
Why are fitness experts concerned about sitting and other sedentary behavior, such as lying on a couch while watching TV?
Experts sometimes call this sedentary behavior the “sitting disease.” Too much sitting affects us at the cellular level, according to researchers. Being sedentary puts us at greater risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, joint pains and others. Too much sitting also is not good for our mental health.
Most of us cannot stop going to work and sitting at a computer, but we need to use some tricks and tools to keep us moving.
Here is some good news: 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day can counter the effect of too much sitting. To reach that recommendation, researchers analyzed data from a million participants in various studies.
As we move into a new year, perhaps with a resolution or two, consider these tips:
- Track your daily activity with a fitness tracker. Many cellphones have trackers, and many trackers are available to wear like a watch. See where you are with your activity level. If you get 3,000 steps per day, set a goal to increase a little each day.
- If you are watching TV, get up and walk during the commercial breaks every 30 minutes. Or pause your favorite commercial-free show and move a few minutes. Put your home exercise equipment near your TV.
- While talking on the phone, walk around your home or other space.
- At work, use a restroom on another floor.
- While at work, consider participating in online meetings using a phone with the app downloaded. That way, you could walk and talk at the same time.
- Consider getting a standing desk (or use a high counter) that allows you to stand while doing computer work. Or read while on a treadmill.
- Make “breaks” active breaks. Take a walk instead of checking out Facebook or YouTube.
- See https://cdc.gov/physicalactivity/index.html for details about physical activity.
Make your snacks count toward your overall healthful diet. Have some fiber-rich fruit with nut butter as a pick-me-up such as this easy snack you can eat while walking.
1 medium apple
3 tablespoons nut butter (such as peanut butter, sunflower butter)
3 tablespoons granola
Slice the apple into half-inch rounds. Using a knife or apple corer, remove the apple's core. Spread 1 tablespoon of nut butter onto each apple round. Top with granola and enjoy.
Makes three servings. Each serving has 150 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 5 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 75 milligrams sodium.
(Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.)