Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Get Off Your Butt - Your Life Depends On It!

I don’t know where you live, but where I live we are trapped in the house by yet another lovely snow storm. Only this one is worse because it’s layering a shimmery dressing of ice on everything. It’s quite the adventure just slipping to the end of the drive for the newspaper (glad the cameras weren’t rolling for that one - yak trax are no match for black ice). Even the kids are becoming sedentary. The snow is so deep and so heavy, that after the requisite snowman, there’s not much to do but begin a snowball fight that inevitably ends with someone violating the “no head” rule, the other someone in tears with a bruised face or ego, and me being forced to put on my own boots to retrieve the offending someone. Notice I’m naming no names.

So what else is there to do but grab a book or fire up the computer? We’re all guilty, but if we don’t get up off our butts it’ll kill us. I’m not kidding. New research by the American Cancer Society says that women who spend six hours a day sitting on their butts are 40% more likely to die sooner than women who only spend three hours sitting. Doesn’t even matter if those long-sitters are marathon runners or spend all their other hours teaching aerobics.

How can this be? Sitting for prolonged periods suppresses the immune system. Your blood stops circulating normally and can create the perfect scenario for blood clots and heart disease, not to mention raising your resting blood pressure and increasing your cholesterol. Long hours spent sitting may cause large muscle groups to shut down which can lead to damaging metabolic changes. Yipes!

Throwing in my own two cents here - the other obvious factor could be the junk food consumed by people sitting for long periods of time in front of screens. Given the opportunity, my children will mindlessly eat in front of any kind of screen. As long as the food is within arm’s reach, I think they would eat without ceasing. We keep the feed room in the barn shut tight because I know if my horses were to get loose and find their feed, they would eat themselves to death. They don’t know better. Do we?

I’m not so sure, so I only allow my children apples, celery, or carrots while they are watching TV (except for “movie night” when only popcorn will do). This way if they are stuffing themselves with something, at least it’s something that’s good for them.

Still, from what I’m reading it’s the sitting that will kill them faster than the potato chips. Luckily, our screen rules and my children’s energy levels prevent them from sitting still for more than an hour. But my hubby’s a different story. His job requires him to stay motionless (except his mouth, and hopefully his brain) for long hours. And sometimes when I get on a good writing jag, I can sit here for hours too.

So what’s to be done? It’s pretty simple. We need to get off our butts! It’s not too difficult to add some movement in to your day. Walk to someone’s office and talk in person rather than sending that e-mail. Instead of sitting at the counter screaming for my child to stop doing whatever he’s doing that’s making all that noise, I’ll get off my duff and go find the source of the noise. Just breaking up the periods of sitting should do it. Move around enough to get the blood flowing. Walk up the stairs and back down. Laundry helps with this. I’ve started using the annoying end buzzer on my dryer so that I have to get up and take out the clothes or risk hearing that awful sound every 4 minutes. Instead of sitting down to sort the mail or write a quick note, I stand at the counter. And when talking on the phone instead of lounging on the couch, I’m using that time to patrol the house for dirty laundry, discarded edible contraband (i.e. something out of the kitchen other than carrots, celery, or apples), and lights left on. Sometimes I even clean while I’m talking. (Crazy, I know.) When I’m stuck waiting for a kid, a car, an appointment, whatever, I’ve taken to finding a comfortable wall to lean on and playing with my iphone instead of sitting down to read some mindless tabloid in the waiting room. I’m looking for any excuse to get off my butt.

If your kids are the ones sitting still for hours, you need a plan. Asking for their help, sending them on an errand, and if worse comes to worse, pulling the plug (or flipping the circuit breaker) can help you get them moving. One article I read suggested wearing a pedometer and setting a goal each day, but that could get old (or not, depending on your personality). I think it’s just a matter of deciding that living a long, healthy life is more important than watching another episode, playing one more game, or wasting another minute on the internet.

These may be “new” findings, but even Plato knew the consequences of whiling away the hours motionless, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” Smart guy that Plato.

No comments:

Post a Comment