Want to Stay Healthy? Move More!

COVID has certainly made the importance of health very clear and we have all seen how quickly things can change with an illness. While COVID is currently front and center in most people’s thoughts, it isn’t the only thing out there that can change your life. Heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer can all be devastating too.

Movement Offers a Defense

If you’re looking to be more resilient and defend against these health challenges, realize that physical activity can be a powerful tool. The dangers of being sedentary are well known and documented in research across a wide range of medical specialties.  Excessive sitting and sedentary time have even been called “the new smoking”. For many of us, sitting and being inactive is part of our jobs. This is inherently bad for our health.  However, research has shown that getting in enough movement can counteract the negative effects of being sedentary.

A large study done in the U.K. found no association between the amount of time people spent sedentary and their chances of illness. But the authors didn’t conclude that being sedentary is OK. Instead, they felt their findings were likely “attributable to a protective effect of the high volumes of daily walking.” The study was conducted in London, where people tend to spend much more time walking or standing than average Americans. The people in the study in London had daily walking times that were over double the average amount reported in the U.K. as a whole.   In the United States, a sedentary lifestyle is unfortunately very common.  A low percentage of adults continue to exercise regularly throughout their lifetimes, with some statistics stating that < 35% of adults aged 65-74 are physically active.

According to the Harvard Health Blog, prolonged sitting, like spending hours watching television, can increase your chance of developing venous thrombosis (potentially fatal blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs), according to a study of more than 15,000 people. In fact, according to a study of > 15,000 participants cited by the blog, people who watched television the most had a 70% greater risk of suffering from venous thrombosis compared with those who never or seldom watched TV.

Physical Therapists Are Unequaled Experts in Human Movement

While walking was the activity in the previously described study, other research has shown that all kinds of movement can help protect your health. If you’re looking to get those protective benefits for yourself you could choose to walk, bike, lift weights, dance or garden. It’s also a good idea to “sneak” activity into other parts of your day when possible.  Any movement is better than nothing!  You might try repeating a sit-to-stand movement 8-10 times each time you get up out of your chair.  It is possible to do 10-20 push-ups against the wall and/or 10-20 heel raises while you are waiting for your coffee to drip or your lunch to heat in the microwave.  Parking intentionally further from the entrance of a store that you are going to, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator in the parking garage are other ways to fit a few minutes of active movement into your typical daily routine.

If you’re not moving as much or as well as you’d like, you might consider making an appointment with your physical therapist. PTs are the most qualified professionals on the planet to help people move better and enable them to stay healthy and active in order to enjoy life. From designing a program to get you started on moving more to helping you recover from an injury or an illness, your PT is the right person to look to for help.