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In the New Year: Sit less to live better—and longer

When I was a young nurse, I became fast friends with the support hose that helped me endure being on my feet for 8-12 hours at a time.

And now, as an—ahem—somewhat-older-nurse-turned-writer, our “supportive” relationship continues.

However, these days I don’t need them because I’m on my feet too much—but because I’m on my fanny too much.

It’s not that I’m sedentary, because I exercise every morning.

But once I head to my study and sit down at my desk, many hours can pass before I realize that I’ve been sitting way too long for my own good.

And if I don’t have those support hose on, my lower legs will remind me of just how long that has been.

That’s why a recent NPR article gave me a great reminder of the hazards of spending so much time on my tail.

A building body of research supports the fact that prolonged sitting not only contributes to many chronic illnesses—but may decrease life expectancy as well.

In “Get Off the Couch, Baby Boomers, or You May Not Be Able to Later,” NPR correspondent Patti Neighmond highlights a study recently published in the Journals of Gerontology that concluded:

Reduction of sedentary time, combined with increased physical activity may be necessary to maintain function in older age.

Since other studies have linked mobility to quality of life as we age, sitting too much now can make a big difference in how happy we are down the road.

A study published in 2015 in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes concluded that health related quality of life (HRQoL) is directly linked to how well we’re able to move about as we age:

Mobility may be an important predictor of changes in HRQoL over time. As such, mobility is a critical factor to target for future intervention strategies aimed at maintaining or improving HRQoL in late life.

Regardless of our age, there are some key things that we Boomers can do now to maintain optimal mobility as long as possible. Here are just four of them:

  • Regular exercise. You don’t need to hit the track for exercise to be effective. What’s more important is finding something that’s enjoyable and tailored to your needs—which many Boomers find within programs like Silver Sneakers.
  • A healthy weight. In addition to all the health hazards created by being overweight, those extra pounds are hard on your joints, too—which play a key role in optimal mobility as we age. If you’re struggling with your weight, talk to your doctor about a plan that’s right for you.
  • Fall prevention. There are a number of dynamics that can contribute to falls as we get older—and being aware of how they impact us is essential. Check out some of these fall prevention resources from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Sitting less. Even if we abide by the first suggestion and exercise more—we still need to get up and move on a regular basis. That means that gorging on an entire season of a favorite show isn’t a good idea—nor is sitting at your desk for hours on end. So I’ll get up more in the year ahead, but I’m still going to hang onto my support hose.

For more resources about Graceful Aging and other topics, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.

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