Too Much Sitting Linked To Major Disability After 60

By  //  February 22, 2014

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FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO MINIMIZE SEDENTARY TIME

ABOVE VIDEO: CBSNews.com reports on the Northwestern University study that shows too much sitting is linked to disability no matter how much moderate exercise a person may get.

I’m over 60, exercise pretty vigorously 5 days a week, am active managing my mini-ranch and have been under the impression that my active lifestyle was conducive to disability-free “golden years.”

So, like so many others under the same impression, you can imagine my surprise and concern when I read headlines featuring the findings of a recent Northwestern University study that suggests:

“Regardless of exercise, too much sedentary (sitting) time is linked to major disability after age 60.”

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A study out of Northwestern University suggests that if you’re 60 and older, sedentary behavior is its own risk factor for life-altering physical disability.

There is a plethora of medical evidence that has established a direct association between increased risk for health problems such as heart failure and earlier death with a sedentary lifestyle.

However, according to this study, which was supported in part by the U.S. National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases and published February 19 in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, if you’re 60 and older, sedentary behavior is its own risk factor for life-altering physical disability, with every additional hour a day you spend sitting linked to doubling the risk of being disabled — regardless of how much moderate exercise you get.

LESS SITTING = LESS DISABILITY

“This is the first time we’ve shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise,” said Dorothy Dunlop, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Being sedentary is not just a synonym for inadequate physical activity.”

Dr. Dorothy Dunlop

Dr. Dorothy Dunlop

Dunlop and her colleagues evaluated responses given by a sample of 2,286 adults aged 60 and older to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study compared people in similar health with the same amount of moderate vigorous activity, such as walking briskly, as if you are late to an appointment.

The men and women answering the survey wore accelerometer devices to measure their activity on at least four different days between 2002 and 2005. Use of the accelerometers minimized subjective activity data and added more objectivity.

Because the study examines data at one point in time, it doesn’t definitively determine that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between sedentary behavior and disability.

“It (the study) draws attention to the fact that this is a potential problem,” said Dunlop, who is doing a longitudinal study on sedentary behavior and disability risk.

Disability, defined by limitations in basic activities you need to be able to do to stay independent, such as eating, dressing or bathing oneself, getting in and out of bed and walking across a room, affects more than 56 million Americans.  Disability also increases the risk of hospitalization and institutionalization and is responsible for 25 percent of all healthcare costs.

EVEN ONE EXTRA HOUR OF SITTING SIGNIFICANT

According to Dunlop, only about 6 percent of survey participants met the moderate activity goal of 2.5 hours per week goal, with both men and women on average spending nine hours a day being sedentary during waking hours. Four percent of participants were already dealing with some disability.

The study results showed that for each additional daily hour of being sedentary, the odds of disability rose about 50 percent.

The study results showed that for each additional daily hour of being sedentary, the odds of disability rose about 50 percent.

For example, a woman aged 65 who was sedentary for 13 hours a day was 50 percent more likely to be disabled than a woman who was sedentary for 12 hours.

SITTING BURNS LESS FAT, SLOWS BLOOD FLOW

Dr. Dunlop and her research team can’t identify for sure what it is about sitting that appears to be the critical factor.

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Experts think that sitting for an extended period causes muscles to burn less fat and blood to flow more sluggishly.

However she said experts think that sitting for an extended period causes muscles to burn less fat and blood to flow more sluggishly.

“And furthermore, if someone slumps in their chair then their back and stomach muscles go unused and the issue of idle muscles and slow circulation can contribute to all kinds of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and also contribute to varicose veins, swollen legs and ankles,” Dunlop said.

FIND WAYS TO CUT DOWN ON SITTING TIME

Further research will be needed to definitively prove the link between sitting and an increased risk for disability – but until then, Dunlop advised people to try to replace sedentary time with light physical activity as often as possible, and if that’s difficult, focus on decreased sitting time.

For those of us with desk jobs who spend a lot of time sitting, Dunlop encourages finding opportunities to replace some of that sitting with other activities.

To cut down on sitting time, Dunlop has the following suggestions:

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Adjustable height desks are just one creative way to get off your derriere and minimize sitting time.

• Stand up when you talk on the phone or during a work meeting.
• When you go to grocery store or mall, park in a space farthest away.
• When you get up to have glass of water, walk around the house or office.
• Walk for short errands instead of taking the car.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you are able.

The bottom line is be as active as you can and try to minimize your “sitting time.”

I have to spend some time at my desk every day, so I just Googled “Adjustable Height Desk” and found a ton of possibilities that will get me upright and off of my derriere. (Paul, Northwestern.edu, 2/19; Doheny, HealthDay News [on WebMD], 2/19; Woerner, FOXNews.com, 2/19)


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