Sitting is Bad for the Whole Family
I’ve written about the dangers of sitting before. In that blog post, I talked about a study from the American Cancer Society that found a correlation between leisure time spent sitting and an increased risk of myeloma, breast, and ovarian cancers in women. Even then, this research was less of a piece of breakthrough and science and more of a confirmation of what the medical community has become to accept as fact: sitting is really bad for you.
In fact, some studies have gone as far as to compare the dangers of setting to the dangers of smoking.
While there might be some hyperbole here, smoking and sitting do have a few key things in common: smoking and sitting can both become deeply ingrained habits that persist for decade after decade in an individual’s life, and they both have far-reaching health consequences. The takeaway from this body of research is that activity matters throughout your day, so you should adopt Habits of Health that promote movement in both big and small ways. A workout at the end of your workday will not undo the damage of sitting for the entirety of a 10 hour workday.
These health consequences, unfortunately, are not limited to adults. Just like you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to take up smoking, you should be just as concerned about how much time your children spend sitting.
A recent study published in Experimental Physiology (that was picked up by the New York Times) found that children who had just one session of inactivity began to experience changes in blood flow and arteries. These same physical changes are consistent with indicators of adult cardiovascular problems.
The research into how sitting affects children is still quite limited compared to the volume of research that has been done on adults, but these findings are not surprising given what we already know about the dangers of inactivity. From a Habits of Health perspective, prolonged periods of inactivity may be more dangerous for children in terms of the behavioral patterns it reinforces. If you play those habits out over a lifetime of inactivity, the culmination is likely incredibly serious health problems.
For the older generations, a childhood spent in front of a screen or on a couch is far from our own personal experiences. For us, inactivity began to take hold as we transitioned into adulthood. We went from spending our days playing sports and romping through the neighborhood to sitting at a desk in an office. For younger generations, the path is from a childhood spent in a chair to an adulthood spent in a chair.
As the above study indicates, the consequences for inactivity might begin almost immediately. Just as we see the value of adopting Habits of Health in our adult lives, we should be helping our children to adopt Habits of Health that set them up for a lifetime of vibrant health. Should we toss out the televisions and video game systems? Maybe not, but we should be looking to model and impart Habits of Health for and to our children.
So get up and move with the whole family!