Sitting Increases Risk for Disability Among Seniors

After you read this, get up and walk around, while you still can.

Prolonged sitting, whether at a computer or while binge watching Netflix, increases mortality rates among middle aged and older adults.  And recent research has found that people over the age of 60 who spend more time sitting are also more likely to become disabled and have difficulty performing daily activities.

According to a National Public Radio report, researchers from Northwestern University found that for each additional hour seniors spend sitting, the risk of becoming physically disabled increases by 50 per cent.  And as we age, an hour at the gym won’t repair the damage done by sitting most of the day.  If the average adults spends 12 hours sitting which results in a 6 per cent increase in the risk for developing a disability, each added sedentary hour would increase the odds by 3 per cent.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, maintaining function in older age is often a result of staying active.  While sitting for long periods of time, blood flow is slowed, muscle burns less fat and become less toned.  And with all the data streaming available today, it’s possible to sit for hours watching television or using the computer without taking a break to walk around.  Study participants on average spent nine out of 14 waking hours sitting.

How can middle aged and older adults tackle the problem of sitting too much?  Small changes can make a big difference.  Instead of sitting to take a call, use a mobile phone and stand or walk around while talking or make a point to up once every hour to walk around the house or office.    Try parking at the far end of the lot or taking the stairs to get some extra steps into your daily routine.  Using an activity tracker can also help older adults with motivation by setting a daily activity goal;  some monitors will also give you a gentle vibration reminder when it’s time to get up and move around.

Being sedentary is considered by many experts the worst thing you can do for your health as you age.  Sitting to watch television for more that two hours each day increases the risk for developing a disability by 65 per cent according to a new study that followed adults between the ages of 50 and 71 over a period of 8 to 10 years.

To learn more about how physical activity affects disability among older adults, visit the Journal of Gerontology by following this link.

Consider a free membership to The Oldish to access SAIL Fall Prevention Home Activity Program exercises in the Toolkit that can be done sitting, standing or moving.