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Fit Body: It’s Your Move

Movement is Everything and Sitting is Hazardous to Your Health

by Lauren Eckstein

Get up. Get moving. Right now. Even if you feel like you have no time to exercise, think again. There is something simple you can do to get moving. Researchers and experts increasingly agree that the best prescription for health is to sit less and move more. The Centers for Disease Control currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for adults; that works out to be 21.4 minutes a day.

“This is the perfect time of year to do a lifestyle assessment and see where you can increase activity,” notes Kate Hall, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of Wholistic Fitness, a women’s wellness center in North Wales, Pennsylvania. “With the days growing shorter, most people have a tendency to retreat indoors and park themselves in front of sitcoms for several hours, but if they could set aside as little as 20 minutes a day, they could begin to change their entire wellbeing.”

There are many reasons to get moving. While an intense one-hour workout may be the ticket to significant weight loss and improved sports performance, moderate exercise done in 10- or 20-minute intervals can improve overall health. Getting your body in motion improves the flow of oxygen to the body, engages muscles and helps prevent the build-up of blood sugar in the bloodstream that contributes to diabetes and other health problems.

“In a perfect world, we would have an hour to dedicate to exercise,” comments Patrick Mulhern, the founder and owner of PT Transformations, which provides personal training in-home or at its fitness center in Bristol, Pennsylvania. “Since we’re all running that rat race we call life, that’s not practical. I tell people, every twitch of the eye is energy. Every time you engage your muscles, you’re burning energy.”

The message that exercise experts want to convey is that motion is crucial, and any motion counts; using your muscles is always beneficial.

“I’m a huge believer in 10-minute bouts of exercise,” affirms K.C. Wilder, a former professional cyclist and training coach with an office in Lambertville, New Jersey. “When I’m gardening, I stop and do lunges and squats or I drop down for push-ups. My neighbors laugh at me, but that’s what I do. It absolutely counts.”

If motion is the goal, the enemy is clear: sitting. The average American sits nine hours a day, and a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that all those sedentary hours have a direct impact on life span. Women that sat for more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die over a period of 13 years (between 1993 and 2006) than those that sat fewer than three hours, while men that sat more than six hours daily were 18 percent more likely to die over the 13-year period than counterparts that sat fewer than three hours. The association remained virtually unchanged after adjusting for physical activity level. However, when the long hours of sitting were combined with a lack of physical activity, those relationships became stronger; the percentages skyrocketed to 94 percent for women and 48 percent for men.

To put the data into even sharper focus, a separate study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that every hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. Smoking one cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the study notes.

The facts should be motivating because the message is simple: motion of any kind is good for you. If you cannot fit the 90-minute boot camp into your schedule, you likely can take a break from sitting during the day. Put the mobile back in mobile phone and take your conversations for a walk. Park farther away from the grocery store entrance. Whenever you see an opportunity to use your body, take it.

“People should be more cognizant of the opportunities they have to fit exercise in,” says Mulhern. “If you’re looking for the stars to align, it doesn’t happen that way. Don’t think about it. If you see a window, just do it.”

Lauren Eckstein is a freelance writer in New Hope, PA, January 2013.

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