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How to combat "sitting disease"

Is your daily routine putting you at risk for serious disease and an early death? If you're like most people, you sit for more than half of your waking hours (working, driving, reading, watching TV) and research has found this type of sedentary lifestyle can harm your health in numerous ways.

"Sitting for prolonged periods increases mortality and reduces life expectancy just like smoking does," says Indumathi Bendi, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont. "Sitting is an underrated health threat of modern times and can be labeled as 'the new smoking' or 'sitting disease' due to all the health risks it poses."

Health risks of prolonged sitting  

A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of:

Can exercise undo the effects of constant sitting?

Unfortunately, even an hour of exercise a day may not undo the effects of sitting.

"Studies have proven that physical fitness does not negate the association between prolonged sitting and mortality, although mortality is worse in individuals with lower levels of physical activity," says Dr. Bendi. "Prolonged sitting causes low sympathetic activity, insulin resistance, as well as lower metabolic rate and energy expenditure, thereby promoting weight gain and its associated risks."

Move more throughout the day

Before you cancel your gym membership and relegate yourself to a life on the couch, there are ways you can reverse the effects of excessive sitting. New research shows walking for two minutes every hour can undo the damage of inactivity. Here are some simple ways to fit more activity into your day:

  • Take walking breaks every hour. Set a reminder on your computer or phone and get your blood flowing. Take a lap around your office or walk a few flights of stairs.
  • Wear a pedometer to track how much you've walked each day. Aim for more steps than you walked yesterday and continue building up until you reach 10,000 a day.
  • Schedule "walking meetings" at work and discuss projects while walking a lap or two around the block.
  • Pace around while you talk on the phone.
  • Go for a walk on your lunch break.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park as far away from the grocery store or office as you safely can to squeeze in extra steps.
  • Follow a walking DVD or online video at your desk or in your living room.
  • March in place while watching TV or at least during commercial breaks.
  • Catch up with a friend during a walk in the park or around your neighborhood rather than meeting for lunch or dinner.
  • Use a standing desk if possible.

"Exercise has a positive impact on multiple systems and health outcomes," she says. "Increasing your total daily calorie expenditure has a strong mortality benefit."

The bottom line? The more you move, the healthier you'll be. It's never too late to get started.

Find more ways to move with Living Better's fitness tips.

Dr. Bendi practices at Piedmont Physicians Buckhead, located at 105 Collier Road Northwest, Suite 1030, Atlanta, GA 30309. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Bendi or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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