The unfortunate reality for millions of workers across thousands of fields here in the U.S. is that their jobs require them to be sedentary for prolonged periods virtually every day. To illustrate, consider that a call center employee has to spend hours in a desk chair answering calls, a dentist has to spend hours seated on a stool treating patients and a pilot has to spend hours seated at the controls of the airplane.
To make matters worse, many of these workers aren’t able to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, such that they end up spending the majority of their waking hours in a seated position.
The good news is that most people are at least aware of the fact that a largely sedentary lifestyle can present certain health risks. In fact, many of them — particularly seniors — may be more likely to start doing something about it following the recent release of a study by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, determined that those people age 60 and older increase their chances of developing a life-changing physical disability by 50 percent for every hour of the day they spend sitting down.
“If you take two 65-year-old women, with the same health profiles, and…one is sitting or doing very little about 12 hours a day, her chance of being in the disabled pool is about 6 percent,” said one researcher. “If you take another person, also 65 years old, same health profile, but she sits for 13 hours a day, her chance of being disabled is 9 percent; it’s an increase of 50 percent for each hour.”
The researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gathered information on 2,286 adults age 60 and over from 2002 to 2005. Here, the study participants agreed to wear accelerometers — a gadget used to measure physical activity — and provide other data to researchers that would help them calculate their risks of developing disabilities.
“The way they defined disability was limitations in basic activities you need to be able to do to stay independent – feeding yourself, bathing yourself, dressing yourself, walking from room to room,” said the researcher.
While the researchers declined to examine why the risk for disability was so greatly increased by sitting, they did theorize that it could probably be linked to the simple notion that a body at rest sees slower circulation, less fat burning, swelling in the extremities and poor muscle development. These symptoms, in turn, have been linked to a host of serious conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
What then can older people do to minimize this increased disability risk?
Not surprisingly, the researchers recommended that people of all ages start a light exercise regimen, and eliminate — or at least offset — the hours spent sitting at work.
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Source: Fox News, “Sitting linked to increased risk for disability, study shows,” Amanda Woerner, Feb. 19, 2014