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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

By October 10, 2017Connections
Marlie Cross Issaquah Highlands Connections Health and Fitness

As seen in October 2017 Connections

As a former Health Coach, I am frequently sifting through mounds of articles featuring well-crafted statistics on latest trends on how to be healthy. It has been arduous to navigate around the trolls of marketing to find the seeds of true wellness wisdom. After seeing outrageous articles spouting extremes that invoke fear in the reader by drawing parallels to things like heroin and sugar, it has become my mission to uncover the truth about how to be healthy. Working from home in the Highlands with recent hamstring injury leaving me couchbound, it has been difficult to stay active. I decided to investigate: Could sitting be the new smoking? I think not, and here’s why.

The argument starts that sitting for long periods of time contribute to high blood pressure, obesity, and even cancer. What they don’t tell you is that there are limited controls around the participants in these studies, and it is a multitude of lifestyle factors that contribute to our overall health. Are the participants eating Cheetos or carrot sticks? We need more information.

Whether it is school, work, or a mobility issue like my recent injury, our modern-day lifestyle requires us to sit most of the day. The “healthy” alternative that is frequently offered? Stand. But the only substantiated health benefit of standing over sitting is that you burn slightly more calories, about 10 per hour. On top of that, standing for long periods can do some harm, including: alignment issues, knee pain, swelling in the feet, and overall fatigue. Not exactly a winning solution.

What’s the real issue? Stagnation. It’s movement in general that helps increase blood flow to keep a healthy body and mind. To villainize one body position over the other is silly, especially when adding in the guilt factor to those of us to don’t have a choice to be bottom side down for hours at a time.

What’s the solution? Motion. And it doesn’t have to be major to have huge benefits. Sitting all day? Overtight chest muscles can cause back pain, so try doing a few chest stretches and take a quick walk. I take my dog for a quick stroll to Black Nugget Park at lunchtime to break-up the hours of sitting.

Standing all day? Give your joints a break with hip and ankle circles, or even take a sitting break! Have you noticed how many benches there are throughout our Highlands community? I have found several great spots to sit and enjoy the beauty of Issaquah while resting my legs between bouts of walking. And don’t forget your hip flexors. Regardless of sitting or standing, the small muscles between our hips and thighs that help lift our legs up are regularly over tight. Give these a good stretch to keep your hips and back well-aligned.

Sitting is not going to undo all the wonderful things you do to keep yourself and your family healthy. I’m officially revoking the sin of sitting and replacing it with the benefit of balance and motivation of movement. Take care and sit well.

Photo Caption: Sitting well is easy in Issaquah Highlands, especially with all our view benches. Author Marlie enjoys a sitting break at Grand View Park with pal J.J.

Marlie Cross is an Issaquah Highlands resident and volunteer contributor to Connections.