Last week I shared the importance of putting more plants on your plate as you work toward improving heart health. Hopefully my advice to eat more nutrient dense food that has not been highly processed with added sugar or fat has encouraged you to pay attention to what you eat. Today I want to focus on another component of heart health; exercise. A benefit of an active life is a healthier heart. Your heart is a muscle and it gets stronger with exercise, just like any other muscle. It is never too late to start exercising and reaping the benefits.
An article from a past Walk Kansas newsletter titled, “Sitting is the New Smoking” really makes you stop and think. Most of us live and work in a sedentary culture and studies show that sitting too much is taking a toll on our health. A study by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic – Arizona State University, has been studying the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle for years. and sums up his findings in this way. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Many other researchers agree with Dr. Levine, and continue to find the evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing serious illnesses that include heart disease, various types of cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.
It appears that the impact of movement, even leisurely movement, is profound. In addition to burning more calories when you move, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger the process where the body breaks down fats and sugars. When you sit, these processes stall and your health risks increase.
Take a moment to analyze your typical day. How much time do you spend sitting? Think about time spent at the computer, watching TV, and driving or riding in a vehicle. Also consider time you sit enjoying hobbies, such as sewing, knitting, crafting, watching a ballgame or reading. So, how can we sit less and move more? Here are some tips:
• Stand while you talk on the phone and when reading the mail.
• Stand during webinars and Zoom meetings.
• Use a standing desk for office work and other desk activities.
• Put the remote control next to the TV instead of next to you and stand up during commercial breaks.
• Walk to visit a neighbor instead of calling them.
• Take meetings out of the conference room – talk while you walk.
• Move the printer away from your desk so you need to stand and walk to retrieve copies.
• For every 30 minutes you sit, stand for 5 minutes. Set an alarm to remind you, or at the very minimum move every 60 minutes.
• Stand often while you watch a live sports event – get up and cheer for your team!
Hopefully you are finding an indoor place to exercise during this extremely cold weather. Be safe and get moving. And have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.