New research reveals that every hour of sitting contributes to a 100 percent increase in your risk of becoming disabled after 60, underscoring the importance of moderate physical exercise among seniors.
Dr. Dorothy Dunlop, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University and lead author of the study, said in a press release that the findings are the first to show that sitting can be a risk factor for disability in its own right. "This is the first time we've shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise," she explained. "Being sedentary is not just a synonym for inadequate physical activity."
For the study, Dunlop and colleagues equipped 2,286 adults over 60 with special accelerometers designed to measure daily activity. The researchers then followed this sample over three years between 2002 and 2005. At the end of the experiment, they compared activity levels with reported health problems.
As expected, seniors who regularly undertook moderate vigorous activity fared better than those who did not. However, the results also showed that sedentary behavior — such as sitting — appeared to increase the risk of disability regardless of exercise habits. For example, if one 65-year-old woman is sedentary for 12 hours a day, and another is sedentary for 13 hours a day, the latter has a 50 percent chance of becoming disabled.
"It means older adults need to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting, whether in front of the TV or at the computer, regardless of their participation in moderate or vigorous activity," Dunlop told reporters. "It's great reinforcement to keep moving.”
How to Not Get Disabled from Sitting Down
Luckily, Dunlop doesn’t leave us hanging. Like any good wellness expert, she has compiled a list of easy ways to disrupt sedentary behavior throughout the day. Get your notepads out.
1. Stand up when you’re on the phone. Dunlop also recommends standing up during work meetings, but that’s a pretty bold move.
2. At the grocery store, find the parking spot the farthest away from the entrance.
3. Getting a cup of water? Take a lap around the house, office, or wherever you are.
Now, these pointers may sound like no-brainers to some. But given the rise of obesity, hypertension, and other health problems related to inadequate exercise, they’re obviously not taken to heart at the rate that they should be. Dunlop herself always wears a small device that tracks her steps and compares her progress to those in her social circle. Perhaps we should all do the same?