I thought of David Bloom as I got on the plane. David was a TV reporter with ABC News who passed away suddenly in 2003 while covering the war in Iraq. He died of a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis. David had been sitting for long periods of time in a cramped tank moving from location to location.
I was getting on a plane to Italy. It was a nine hour flight and I thought of what happened to David Bloom. It was the first time I thought of sitting as a dangerous thing. It wouldn’t be the last time, either.
Lots of research is coming out telling us how bad sitting is for our health. One story even called sitting the new smoking. All kinds of bad stuff is linked to sitting. We are at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, deep-vein thrombosis, and more.
But, sitting is so much a part of how we live. Just think of all the things we do that often require sitting:
Making it difficult to break the cycle of sitting is the more we sit the more WE WANT TO SIT. We feel this inclination even more as we get older.
To avoid the negative health impact of too much sitting, it’s crucial to develop a lifestyle of moving more and sitting less. Here are three things you can do to make this happen:
BE AWARE OF ALL THE SITTING YOU DO
Because sitting feels like a natural part of life most of us aren’t even aware of how much we do it. So, this is key….to become aware.
How much time do you spend in the car? Do you sit at work? When you are home, what do you like to do that involves sitting?
The average person walks about 3,000 steps a day. If they are walking slowly that’ll take about 45 minutes. That means they are NOT MOVING more than 23 hours a day! Obviously, part of that is laying in bed for sleep. That’s a good thing. The rest of it though is probably spent sitting. That’s not a good thing.
How much are you sitting every day? Maybe that simple math is enough to help you be more aware? Or maybe it would be helpful to take a couple days and actually log when you sit and for how long.
However you want to do it, the first step in developing a lifestyle of moving more and sitting less is to become aware of just how much you are sitting. It’s even possible that as you move more sitting will become more of a challenge.
DO I REALLY NEED TO SIT?
Once you’re aware of your sitting, the next step is to ask yourself if you really need to. For example, do you really need to sit at work all day? Have you considered a stand up desk? A few years ago I transitioned from sitting in the studio during our morning radio show to standing. If you don’t have the option of standing at work, can you at least take a five minute walk break every hour?
It’s not just the cumulative amount of sitting that’s dangerous to our health, it’s also sitting for long periods of time. That’s what happened to David Bloom. His situation was extreme. He was not in a comfortable chair in the back of that tank, but long periods of inactivity is a cause of deep-vein thrombosis and frequent walking is one of the ways to prevent DVT.
When you’re on the phone do you have to sit? When you’re watching TV do you have to sit? I make it a point to get up and walk during the commercials. When you’re traveling, do you have to sit for the entire trip? On that flight to Italy I got up every now and then to walk up and down the aisle.
When you’re in a waiting room do you have to sit? Ava recently out an outpatient procedure that took more than an hour. Since I couldn’t be with her, I left the hospital and walked to a nearby coffee shop. To me, that was better than sitting in the waiting room scrolling on my phone.
Not all of our sitting is required. Much of it is a choice. When you find yourself sitting, ask the question, “Do I really have to?” This will go a long way to creating a lifestyle of moving more and sitting less.
SET A STEP GOAL
Nothing has “forced” me to move more than my daily Fitbit goal. I learned pretty quickly that to reach my goal I couldn’t wait until the end of the day and check how many steps I have. That approach never ended well. Instead, I learned to check throughout the day and found ways to move more and sit less all day long.
Those ways eventually became part of who I am and what I do. In other words, that step goal was instrumental in creating a lifestyle where I walk 20,000 steps a day. That’s been my goal for more than two years and I’ve hit it every day. (Actually, there were two days I missed it by 293 and 6 steps because I forgot to check my total before going to bed)
Having a daily step goal has also turned fitness into a game. I look for fun ways to move more. Sometimes I see how early in the day I can hit the goal. I even have a personal record for most steps in a day that I’d like to break. Since it’s 50,000 that’ll have to be a day dedicated to the goal. It likely won’t just happen with normal activities.
Do you have a daily step goal? It’s a powerful way to help you create a lifestyle of moving more and sitting less. And, like me, you can also turn it into a fun game. I’d like to give you a free guide to The 30 Day Walking Challenge.
There are three challenge levels for you to try. Level One is for those who don’t have a step goal and are just getting started. The guide will help you set the right goal for your 30 Day Challenge. You don’t want it to be too large that you end up discouraged.
The next two levels are for those who already have a step goal and want to supersize it for 30 days. Whatever level you choose, this challenge will help you become more aware of how much you sit and motivate you to ask whether you really need to sit because you have a step goal to reach.
You can download your free 30 Day Walking Challenge right now.
If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.
(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)
And, now for a bonus tip.
MAKE SITTING THE REWARD
The research does not say we should never sit. It simply says there are dangers to sitting too much or for too long. Even though I walk 20,000 steps a day I still sit a lot. I sit in my car, at my desk, and while I eat. I’m sitting right now as I type this. Sitting is useful and functional.
Sitting can also be fun. I make certain I reach my step goal early enough so I can take the final part of my day and sit. I spend time with the people I love, watch Netflix, or simply enjoy the sunset on my back patio.
This is my reward for moving more and sitting less during the day. I sit. And, I really enjoy it.