8/19/11

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Small Steps to Better Health

Are you sitting down?

It turns out that the good-health staples of many – a well-balanced diet and adequate exercise – may not be the only ingredients needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Recent studies show that you also need to take into account the amount of time spent sitting.

Many of us work while sitting

Researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., found that larger amounts of sitting time from all causes except for cancer are associated with a progressively higher risk for mortality. Long sitting periods contribute to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Further, it turns out that large amounts of sitting can even be detrimental to the otherwise healthy.  A University of Queensland – Brisbane, Australia study looked at the effects of extended sitting periods on individuals who exercised regularly. They found that more TV time was associated with a lower metabolism. “Our metabolisms are based on movement, so sitting for long periods of time actually inhibits the metabolism from functioning properly,” says Mike Komrofske, a personal trainer at the Sports Club at Garden of the Gods Club.

Now for the real clincher – stats show that large amounts of sitting contribute to the deaths of more than 300,000 Americans annually. If this were counted as a disease, it would be the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

So how can you log more activity time in a largely chair-bound culture? For such a large problem, the answer is relatively simple – make small modifications throughout your day while aiming to get regular physical exercise. Here are some simple guidelines to combat inactivity:

A new type of meeting: walking while working

• Change up the average work meeting. The majority of us spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers and in meetings for our jobs. If possible, consider holding some meetings while going for a walk. Even better would be to grab coffee and then go for a walk.

• Choose every opportunity to move. Many modern conveniences stifle the opportunity to move. Rather than taking the elevator, choose the stairs. Park further away from your destination, and relish the fresh air and extra steps. Rather than sending an e-mail to a nearby colleague, personally deliver the message. Sit on a stability ball in front of your desk instead of a chair. Your company might even consider purchasing standing work stations that would allow you to do traditional desk work while standing. “It’s important to take regular breaks. Stand up, stretch, or grab a drink of water. It’s also important to make sure you have correct posture when working, which includes retracting the shoulders back instead of letting them roll forward,” Mike says. You can also cook dinner rather than going out, and wash the dishes instead of throwing them in the dishwasher. In reality, the possibilities are endless. Carving in extra movement really boils down to small choices that all of us make daily.

• Aim to get regular exercise. This one may seem like a no-brainer — yet judging from the research presented above, even those who maintain a physical fitness program are not immune to the ill-effects of extended sitting. In addition to finding small ways to move, take it up a notch and work out. Michelle Blessing, a former Olympic triathlon coach and spinning instructor at Garden of the Gods Club’s Sports Club, notices great results in her students from regular workouts. “One student had never done anything before taking spin classes, but now she’s a lot stronger, and her golf is better. Even exercising three times a week makes a huge difference,” Michelle says.

Free weights are only one type of resistance training

• Try resistance training. Resistance training is any exercise that causes muscles to contract against external resistance. This includes, but is not limited to, the resistance of free weights, weight machines, water, resistance bands, or even the body’s own weight. “When people sit all day, it creates imbalances — especially in the hips and chest. A lot of back pain comes from the hips being out of alignment and little core stability,” Mike says.  “Resistance training can can alleviate up to ninety percent of that pain.  Adding resistance training boasts many benefits including higher bone density, increased metabolism, and heart disease and diabetes prevention.”

So go ahead and sneak in small amounts of movement throughout your day. While you’re at it, jump in a pool and swim, take off on a freeing run, or give yourself permission to make time for whatever exercise style suits you. The Sports Club at Garden of the Gods Club offers a wide range of fitness classes, from spinning and body sculpting to Zumba and Pilates. If  you have any questions about our Sports Club, please contact our GM, Clay, at 719.473.2173.  To learn about our affordable sports memberships, contact Tracey at 719.520.4980 or tkalata@ggclub.com.  Your health will thank you in the end!

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