Everyone knows about the dangers of being sedentary. Sitting still can cause loss of muscle and bone. It can also cause blood sugar problems. While we all know that it impacts our muscles, you might not know that it also increases your risk for brain health problems, like dementia. The good news is that as little as three minutes of exercise every half hour can counteract the dangers of sitting.
Sitting still for too long has been linked to thinning of the brain’s medial temporal lobe. The area is critical to memory formation. Sitting has also been linked to mood and anxiety problems. High body weight, blood sugar problems, back pain, heightened risk for blood clots and an increased risk for some types of cancer have all been linked to sitting. The fact that simply standing instead of sitting can improve insulin sensitivity is heartening to know.
New research found that people who moved around frequently “showed lower fasting blood sugar levels in the morning, meaning their bodies better controlled blood sugar during the night…and their blood sugar also stabilized during the day.” Researchers found that getting at least 15 steps or moving for three minutes every half hour was enough to move the needle and see a difference in people’s results. The people who saw the biggest difference were people who walked about 75 steps.
There are ways to get more exercise into your day. You can move around the room during a commercial break while watching TV, move while talking on the phone, clean a room in your home, clean up your yard or dance to your favorite song. All of the language you will find will always be about “standing up.” But, we think it’s important to recognize that wheelchair users can be healthy and active by getting exercise in an appropriate manner. The problem is being sedentary.
The researchers suggested setting an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to move every half hour. They pointed out that just getting up to go to the bathroom or go to the kitchen for a drink of water counts as an exercise break as you only need to be standing for a few minutes to see a difference. They also recommended minor tweaks like parking a little farther away from the store, getting off the bus a stop earlier or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
You should try to fit extra movement into your day. It can be in the form of stretching more, standing, running chores or anything else that strikes you and is appropriate for your level of mobility. We have all become more sedentary over the decades. The more we move, the better off we’ll be.