When I was in high school, I mowed my grandmother’s lawn once a week. Yet every time I arrived, she would have already mowed a small part of the back yard. I always told her she didn’t need to do that, but she insisted. At the time I didn’t understand why she felt compelled to do this every week, but now that I’m inching closer and closer to her age then, I get it: it was something she could do to stay active. She knew that to stave off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to move more every day.
The older we get, the more likely we are to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, an estimated 67% of older adults report sitting for more than eight hours per day, and only 28% to 34% of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Evelyn O’Neill, manager of outpatient exercise programs at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, sees the consequences of too much sitting every day. “Sitting is the new smoking in terms of health risks,” she says. “Lack of movement is perhaps more to blame than anything for a host of health problems.”
The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle
A sedentary life can affect your health in ways you may not realize. For example, 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, 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.
On the flip side, squeezing in extra movement during the day can have a big impact. For instance, simply standing more can help you lose weight and keep it off, according to a review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.