A couple of years ago, I went to see a specialist my doctor had suggested I visit. The physician I was referred to walked in, greeted me and noticed that I was wearing a Fitbit on my left wrist. She joked about ditching her Fitbit after never reaching the recommended 10,000 steps a day.
"Let's face it. We're all sedentary so why bother?" she said.
Later as we talked, she commented on how many people Zumba classes send to the doctors' offices. Her skepticism about physical activity shocked me. She was a slender, healthy-looking woman but she was a health care provider who was dismissive of the notion of physical movement. Although I was supposed to return to her for a follow-up, I never went back to her office.
By now, most of us have heard that "sitting is the new smoking." With a growing array of studies showing that a sedentary lifestyle or sitting for up to 24 hours a week can lead to an increase in mortality -- with greater odds of obesity, cardiovascular disease or cancer along the way -- it's hard to deny the value of regular physical movement.
One Harvard University study of 92,000 women showed that the more time we spend sitting at a desk, driving or watching television, our risk of dying from heart disease, cancer or strokes escalates. And there is no question that excessive sitting can lead to poor posture, neck and back problems and a malady that I call "computer butt." Computer butt is that dreaded widening of the buttocks and upper thighs that results from sitting in a desk chair too long in front of the screen.
For years research has shown that one in three Americans is obese, making us the fattest country in the world. And obese people sit more than two hours a day longer than those of a healthy body weight The minute we sit down, our body's calorie-burning ability drops to one calorie per minute and electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off the moment we sit.
Moreover, the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day is not enough to reverse the negative effects of sitting. These facts are enough to make you want to run around like your hair is on fire all day. It's no wonder that former First Lady Michelle Obama adopted physical movement and childhood obesity as her signature issues while her husband was in office.
So when I retired from a 33-year career spent primarily seated at a desk, in meetings, on airplanes or commuting for more than two hours a day by car, I decided that I wanted to be anything but sedentary.
I signed up for training to become a yoga and Pilates instructor. My passion for these two forms of activity has inspired me to want to teach classes, with a focus on healthy aging. One of my goals is to encourage others to keep practicing yoga or Pilates by modifying as needed to overcome physical constraints like lower back problems or healing from an injury or surgery. These are some of the limitations we sometimes encounter as we age regardless of how healthy a lifestyle we lead.
In addition to my focus on yoga and Pilates, I took a seasonal part-time job that indulged my love of gardening and sustainable landscaping. This is where I may have really tipped the scales too far in the other direction. However, the results of this form of movement were interesting.
I went to work for Stadler Nurseries, a respected family-owned company that has been in business for 84 years. As an aside, consider the number of economic downturns the Stadler family business has endured. A constant influx of regular customers also speaks volumes about the level of service they provide to their clientele. Clearly, these folks know what they're doing.
From the moment I arrived each day at the Stadler's location in Laytonsville, Maryland, I was in constant motion. I worked with customers to help them find plants to add to their landscaping, took care of perennials and helped organize truck loads of plants. What's not to like about working outdoors in the spring and being up to your ears in beautiful plants every day?
And here is what my Apple Watch activity readout told me every day that I worked at Stadler Nurseries. I reached a daily goal of standing for at least 12 hours out of every day that I worked there. I logged an average of almost six miles in eight hours, well over the goal of 10,000 steps a day. There's no question that this reversed my personal sedentary trend -- at times to the extent of back-breaking physical work.
My pursuit of avoiding time sitting at a desk will continue although I am ending my time at the nursery. By mid-summer I'll be teaching Pilates and my yoga teacher training will continue throughout the year. I watch less than three hours of television a week. Even when I find myself sitting in order to write, I get up every 20 or 30 minutes to take a break. One way or another, I am off to a good start in changing a decades-long pattern of sitting. Here are a few tips I am sharing in the hope that you will sit less, live longer and avoid the dreaded computer butt.
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise or fitness program..