Sitting is the new smoking

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer January 20, 2012 08:58 pm

What if someone told you that 50 percent of all injuries and illnesses in people 50 and older could be eliminated?

You’d be all over it, right. Just think of the pain and misery you could avoid — as well as the doctor bills taking a nasty bite out of the retirement pie.

America would be better off too. By cutting health care costs in half, over the next 20 or 30 years we could eliminate a big chunk of the national debt.

Just imagine the pain and misery taxpayers could avoid.

What if someone said you could find the Fountain of Youth?

All you needed to do is aerobic exercise four days and weights two days a week, an hour a day.

Invest only 5 percent of your waking hours.

And quit eating junk.

Most people would jump back on the couch. Grab a huge bag of Cheetos and turn on their favorite TV program. Or retreat to their computer to check out the latest scandal on Facebook.

What got me thinking about this was the latest issue of “AARP Bulletin” — motto, “Your Health, Your Money, Your World, Your Arthritis.”

So I’m as old as an Eagle Cap rock, and half as sexy. So it goes.

Sometimes, though, the stuff delivered by snail mail can be a real eye-opener — more than credit card offers and scratch-and-sniff ads for male perfume.

The AARP article that caught my eye was titled “Sitting is the new smoking.” The article, written by Elizabeth Pope, says Americans are sitting more than ever. We sit on average 10 hours a day, whether that is in the car, at work, or at the TV or computer.

What’s the big deal? The more we sit, Pope contends, the greater our odds of becoming obese, of having a stroke, of getting cancer or diabetes.

It’s a 30-year lifestyle problem. Day by day, year by year, the pounds build and the threat grows.

It’s not too late, however, to make a New Year’s resolution to get up and move. The best way to solve the nation’s health care crisis — and the massive costs to the system 10, 20 and 30 years from now — is to each do our part.

Admittedly, most people will not want to commit to six days of exercise, an hour a day, although that is the health sweet spot, according to Dr. Henry Lodge, co-author of “Younger Next Year.” It’s the spot where you get the most health dividends for the least exercise investment.

Most people, however, will consider that excessive.

But most people can choose to take regular breaks from sitting. They can get away from the computer or TV every hour. Park at the far end of the grocery store parking lot.

Even if you get out and walk several days a week, for maybe a half hour a day, it will make a huge difference. It’ll put money in your wallet — and a spring in your step you might have thought was gone forever.

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