A new study shows an association between sitting too much and disability in older adults. Seniors face a 46 percent increase in their risk for becoming disabled for every hour they sit idle. It is not just seniors who are affected by sitting too much, however. Sitting too much now can lead to future disabilities.
Being sedentary can increase the chances of having a disability later in life. It can also lead to higher medical bills, decreased independence and a higher risk of living in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
Dorothy Dunlop from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago led the study on sitting. Her and her team analyzed data from an American health study that took place between 2003 and 2006. The data was collected from 2,286 adults who were 60 or older. They wore accelerometers around their waists to record their physical activity throughout the day and they had a doctor’s exam. They were considered disabled if they could not perform daily functions, like bathe and clothe themselves.
The results of Dunlop’s study were published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. It shows that of the 14 hours that most of the participants were awake each day, they spent an average of nine hours sitting. Experts agree that even those who exercise 30 minutes or more per day cannot undo the damage done by sitting for that long.
Dunlop states that although there is a clear association between sitting too long and disabilities in older adults, the study is not enough to blame disabilities on sitting too much. She says there are other studies that back up that theory, but in this particular case, the devices may not have accurately measured all of the participant’s exercise. The devices were not worn while they were swimming, for example. Much like a pedometer, the accelerometers is not a perfect measuring tool.
It is vital to participate in more activities throughout the day in order to prevent getting a disability. Sitting too much is bad for one’s health. It does not require sweating at the gym or ramping up workouts. In fact, a little effort goes a long way. Participating in light activities throughout the day can prevent disability later in life. This may include doing laundry, cleaning the house, walking through the mall, standing while talking on the phone or grocery shopping, for example.
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, more than one-quarter of today’s 20 year-olds will suffer from a disability by their retirement. It is estimated that 12 percent of Americans have some type of disability.
Sitting for nine hours a day creates a sedentary lifestyle that makes the elderly prone to diseases and more likely to suffer from a disability. Seniors are not the only ones at risk for being disabled though. People who sit for long periods of time, at any age, should be concerned. Staving off a disability is not difficult, however. Maintain a healthy body weight, follow a healthy diet, stop smoking, get plenty of sleep, get regular exercise, avoid substance abuse and control stress. It is all about creating a balanced life.
By Tracy Rose