Sedentary lifestyles are a bane to a long, healthy life. Nothing good will usually come from sitting on your behind for extended periods of time. Yes, we do need “down time” to relax a little and take a break from the sometimes-hectic pace of life. But when those “breaks” start to become the majority of our time, problems can begin to creep into the health picture.
We know that being active through exercise is just one of many ways to keep our body healthy. The rewards are many, from regulating blood sugars to keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check to maintaining a healthy and attractive weight. Take exercise (or even just activity) out of the equation, and you may be setting yourself up to be at greater risk of certain types of cancers, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes each week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes each week of vigorous physical activity as a way to generate significant, lasting health benefits. That’s not a lot when you consider we get 10,080 minutes to work with each week! Everyone has time to incorporate some form of activity or exercise into their routines, and this study should give extra motivation to do so.
For the study, the research team looked at the lifestyle habits of 208 bladder cancer patients, 160 kidney cancer patients and 766 people who did not have cancer. Looking at the effects of a lifetime of “recreational inactivity”, they found that a sedentary lifestyle led to:
- a 77% greater risk of kidney cancer
- a 73% increased risk of bladder cancer
Obesity was not a determining factor in the greater risk, as those who were of normal weight also showed the same trend. So, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security even if you’re on the lighter side; you still need to get up and get moving! If you’re stuck sitting at a desk job 40+ hours a week, and may spend another 2 hours a day sitting while commuting, then adding more couch and chair time at home may not be in your best interest.
This isn’t saying you have to go out and become a gym rat or run marathons to reduce your cancer risk, but you do have to do something. Think of easy things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking around the block a couple of times on your lunch hour or parking the car far away from the store when you go to the supermarket. While these aren’t going to be major calories burners for weight loss strategies, they will add to your overall “move time”.
We are always encouraging our patients to incorporate more activity into their daily lives. Sure, there are many interesting things we can be exposed to on television or online, but part of ‘living life to the fullest” requires that you get out there and actually do things, versus just reading or watching them. Spend active time with your family outdoors, be it in a pool or a park. Go explore new places in town you’ve never been or destinations farther away that will incorporate some walking to take in all they have to offer. Life is too short not to be out there living it!
But if you’re spending more time on the couch than you should be, you may be impacting the length or quality of your life, and all the living that you should be able to do.