I have a well-traveled friend who told me once about a custom in India. It seems that after the end of a dinner party the host will pass a concoction of seeds and herbs around to the guests. These are chewed to freshen the breath and aid in digestion. When this is served the guests know that the party is over. The name of this peculiar custom is the “movement order.”
I’m not serving you dinner, but I would like to plant a seed with you. I would like you to consider the amount of time that you spend sitting in a chair, lying on the couch, reading, watching television, or working on the computer.
These activities are referred to as “sedentary” behavior, and the American Heart Association (AHA) says that sedentary behavior is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to the AHA, sedentary behavior may be associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impaired insulin sensitivity, which is linked to diabetes.
Here’s something more to chew on: Lack of physical activity also has been linked to greater risk of colon and breast cancer, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, depression, and a compromised immune system. In fact, sedentary behavior may be associated with an overall higher risk of death from any cause.
Most Americans should try to get 30 minutes or so of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. More might be better but the key is to do something active every day to try and minimize the amount of time sitting or reclining. This may be surprising to those who make time for daily exercise. Sedentary behavior can cancel out exercise if you spend the rest of your day doing nothing.
If you have been mostly sedentary you can start slowly. Just get up and go for a short (5 to 10 minutes) walk a few times every day. If you have not been totally sedentary you can try to increase the amount of time each day that you are active. Work up to 60 minutes of light to moderate movement at a time, and try not to sit for more than 30 to 60 minutes at a time during the rest of the day.
So, here is your “movement order:” I am letting you know that winter is over. It is time to get up out of your chair. Every minute that you sit doing nothing is likely shortening your life.