Healthy Choices

Would you know ‘sitting disease’ if you saw it?

Getting out to walk is one way to prevent ‘sitting disease’
Getting out to walk is one way to prevent ‘sitting disease’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What if your doctor asked you if you had “sitting disease?” Would you know how to answer her?

It’s unhealthy. It’s scary. And it can be contagious – addicting, even.

All year, it seems, health professionals have been warning the public about the physical hazards of spending too much time sitting. Now, with hibernation season just a calendar page-flip away, they are revving up the rhetoric.

This week, the popular site WebMD asks: “Do You Have Sitting Disease?”

Really? Just as we’re about to sink in to the easy chair and take tea before a cozy hearth? “Sitting disease”?

Well, yes, this is what the experts have been sounding the alarm bells about all year. Only earlier, they used the slightly less jolting – still jarring – “sitting is the new smoking.” The implication being that we are letting ourselves waste away by not quitting the nasty habit.

True, there’s much at stake: heart health, lowering stress, muscle mass and bone mass. Even memory growth.

And Dr. Daniel Parker, a UC Davis associate professor of sports medicine, wants us to set an example for the younger generation.

While adults should get good-and-sweaty for at least 150 minutes a week with vigorous exercise, kids need so much more. Between school, carpool shuttles, watching TV and playing video games, kids must squeeze in 60 minutes of hard play daily, whether it’s active organized sports, kicking a soccer ball, biking, jumping rope or playing Red Rover.

“Even on the small scale, your body is turning over its cells constantly,” Parker said. “New cells need oxygen, energy, blood flow to regenerate and to keep the brain’s juices going.”

Adults – and kids – can set kitchen-style timers for 45 minutes to remind them to get up and move around at least 15 minutes an hour. The closer the intervals, the better.

As for the holiday season, make sure everyone feasts early enough to take a brisk walk outdoors before the sun sets. And persuade Santa to pass on the sports video game and pack the sack with real balls instead. If you must watch the big game on TV, stand up and walk around, haul an exercise bike into the room – but do get up during commercials, at least, and keep moving.

At work, tell the boss you’re going to take a hike. No, not that kind. The short, 10-15 minute version that will prevent atrophy of the brain and make you much more productive for the rest of the day.

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.