Prolonged sitting now appears to be as bad as smoking for many years, in terms of your health. Some of the latest research has shown that sitting for many hours watching TV, working at the computer, playing digital games, even sitting for many hours at school or work boosts the risk of developing disease or long-term health conditions--no matter how long you spend at the gym!
But with small changes to our schedules by incorporating simple activities into our daily routines, we can make a world of difference in staying healthier as we move into our later decades of life. For seniors, this could be the difference between staying vibrant and mobile or continuing to rapidly decline in health and independence.
A physician at the Mayo Clinic developed a lifestyle program he calls, "NEAT." It stands for "Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis" with thermogenesis meaning the ability of the body to generate heat and thereby "burn" calories for our energy source. Moving our bodies through space requires burning stored calories (usually excess fat stores) but something as simple as fidgeting can also burn calories. Drumming our fingers, swinging a foot, tapping our toes are all ways of moving our body while sitting. Playing the radio, listening to tunes on the phone or putting on a favorite record and dancing a little to the music is an excellent way to avoid injury while moving our bodies through space. This form of "exercise" for seniors is probably one of the best forms of movement, other than walking, that many older individuals can easily do and enjoy.
For anyone, standing when answering the phone (or walking around while on a cell phone) instead of sitting, parking further away from the entrance to a building, using stairs instead of an escalator or elevator, even moving the alarm clock away from the bed are all ways to begin increasing the amount of time we move our bodies rather than give in to prolonged sitting or reclining. Any small way we can keep moving our bodies will help result in better overall health and a higher quality of life as we age.
One of the things we do at AAging Better is encourage our older clients to always keep moving as much as possible. Our caregivers and home care aides pride themselves in working with our senior clients to do a little extra movement every day that we are there with them--and our clients appreciate the encouragement and assistance. It's one of the small ways in which we help make lives better. And that helps all of us feel better!