Exercise and Sitting, Suggestions for Seniors

May 1st, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Exercise does all kinds of good things for seniors, and the federal office on aging recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. It improves our cardiovascular system, contributes to better cognitive functioning, helps us manage weight, lowers blood pressure, improves metabolism/cholesterol levels/triglycerides, reduce diabetes risk and risk of certain kinds of cancer. The list is impressive and we senior citizens need to heed it.

But new studies suggest that exercise may not be enough to counteract too much sitting during the day. Epidemiologist Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, has spent 40 years investigating physical activity and health.

“Let’s say you do 30 minutes of walking five days a week (as recommended by federal health officials), and let’s say you sleep for eight hours,” Blair says. “Well, that still leaves 15.5 hours” in the day.  (Steven Blair)

We seniors have a tendency to like to sit…  and sit…   and sit.  And new research suggests that bites in to the benefits of exercise.  In a study Blair conducted at the University of South Carolina, he discovered men who were more likely to sit had higher incidence of  heart disease.

“Specifically, he found that men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And many of these men routinely exercised. Blair says scientists are just beginning to learn about the risks of a mostly sedentary day.”  (Steven Blair)

An Australian study in 2008 found people who breakup their sitting time with movement had healthier waist circumference, body mass index (BMI) and triglycerides than people who didn’t take breaks during long periods of sitting.  (NPR)

Dr Toni Yancey’s Instant Recess book (Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, University of California, Los Angeles) offers the following suggestions for people who feel chained to their chairs:

Take a 10-minute activity break at a scheduled time every day.
Park farther away from the places where you work, shop, play, study and worship
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Put printers a short walking distance away from your work or study space instead of right next to it.
Replace desk chairs with stability balls — or use a standing desk to get rid of the chair entirely — to burn more calories while working.
Fidget, stand up and stretch at intervals during meetings.

Senior readers will do well to try some of these suggestions.


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