Tag Archives: sitting

Be active, even when you’re not.

You probably know that exercise is good for your physical health. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of regular physical activity. But the rewards of exercise go beyond strengthening muscles and bones, burning fat, and improving heart health. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

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Traveling this summer? Go for a walk while you fly!

If you travel for work or have vacation plans this summer, that may mean spending time on planes and in airports. It usually also means a lot of sitting. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, you can easily find ways to include physical activity in your air travel plans. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

walking in airport


Airports, especially large airports, are built for walking. If time permits, you can easily walk long distances while you wait for your flight. Even if the airport has a train or other transportation between terminals, there is almost always a way to walk. If you have enough time, you can take a walk around the entire airport, giving you an active way to pass the time. You can always get at least a few minutes of activity by taking a short walk rather than sitting in the gate area waiting for your flight to board.

While airports are not designed with exercise in mind, some do encourage walking by posting information about distances between terminals. Passageways that showcase art, shopping, or other information make walking through the airport a more pleasant experience. Some airports even have dedicated spaces for exercise and a few have added yoga rooms for travelers to use. If you are travelling with children, many airports have areas that allow kids to move and play.

Prolonged sitting has health consequences, whether it is done at home, work, or on a plane. There has been some concern about the development on blood clots in the veins in the legs as a result of sitting still on long flights. This condition is commonly called “economy class syndrome,” since the tight seating makes it challenging to move around. While the risk of blood clots appears to be low for most people, this concern has made people aware of the importance of moving during flight.

Breaking up sitting, even for short amounts of time, is beneficial. On the plane you can usually get out of your seat and stand up, stretch, and walk around a bit. This is easier if you book an aisle seat. If not, your seat mates will need to stand up to let you out. Far from being an inconvenience, though, they should thank you for giving them a short break from sitting. While you are seated you can do leg exercises, too. The safety information card at your seat likely has suggestions, but even moving your legs and feet can improve circulation and make you feel better.

The American College of Sports Medicine has a task force on Healthy Air Travel with the mission to educate travelers and airport administrators about ways to encourage activity among travelers. Over time this should lead to more amenities and greater promotion of walking and other activity at airports. In the meantime, here are a few simple steps you can take to take advantage of opportunities to move while you travel:

  • Book an aisle seat so it is easier for you to get up and out of your seat during your flight
  • Walk rather than using motorized transportation and walkways in airports
  • Check the airport website to find places to walk and other amenities (like a yoga room or play area for kids)
  • Wear comfortable shoes—you will be doing a lot of walking!

 


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Sometimes kids do get good activity and nutrition education in school. Here are two examples.

Earlier this week I wrote about the fact that most children will miss any meaningful education about nutrition, activity, and health when they head back to school. But this isn’t always the case. Some schools include health education in the curriculum, but most don’t. But others do promote healthy eating and exercise elsewhere in the curriculum (daily PE, for example), opportunities for activity throughout the day (recess, letting kids move around in the classroom), and providing healthy meals and snacks.

This is critically important, since good nutrition and physical activity are necessary prerequisites for children to learn and grow.

kids playing


Sometimes I hear about schools that have implemented robust health education programs and individual teachers who make an effort to add activity and nutrition to the “testable” subjects they teach. I am also familiar with two educators who have made nutrition and physical activity a priority both inside on outside the classroom.

One is my brother (@mrkevinparr), a fourth grade teacher in Washington state. Several years ago he decided to address the childhood obesity problem he saw among his students by teaching about healthy eating. Since there was no room in the curriculum for this topic, he created a way to do it while teaching math. This inspired the students to think beyond their class and organize a community health fair.

The other is a longtime friend who was a principal of an elementary school (now district superintendent) in Michigan. He made physical activity a priority through several initiatives including implementing a walking school bus, installing a track around the playground, and encouraging teachers and students to exercise before, during, and after school. (Check out this video!)

So…it can be done, even in the context of an environment that doesn’t support teaching healthy habits. This isn’t to say that parents don’t play an important role in teaching their children healthy habits. But many parents don’t (or don’t know how). Considering the importance of healthy eating and activity for achievement in school and in life in general, schools are a natural place to address these topics.


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Back to school 2015: What kids will STILL be missing!

My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about the experience of heading back to school. But it’s really about what most kids won’t experience when they are in school—any meaningful education about nutrition, activity, and health.

walking school bus


It’s back to school time for kids in our area. Students, parents, and teachers are starting another school year filled with opportunities for children to learn and grow through math and science, reading and writing, and art and music. To be sure, this is time well spent since these subjects help kids build a strong foundation that will help them succeed in school and beyond, something that is widely understood and appreciated.

But children should also learn about good nutrition and physical activity, since both good health and good education are essential for lifelong happiness and success. In most schools, though, most kids won’t experience much meaningful education about nutrition, activity, and health. In fact, opportunities for children to be active in school, either through formal physical education or more informal play and recess, has declined over the years. And good nutrition isn’t likely to get much classroom time at any level and the food served in most schools hardly sends a positive message about healthy eating. These are missed opportunities!

The message that children need to eat breakfast before school is well-known and many schools offer breakfast for kids who don’t get it at home. Similarly, lunch is an important part of the school day. In addition to providing energy to support growth and learning, these meals also present an opportunity to teach children about healthy eating since formal nutrition education isn’t part of the curriculum at most schools.

The same is true for physical activity. Research shows that activity can positively affect several factors that are related to academic performance. These include skills (attention, concentration, and memory), behaviors (classroom conduct and homework completion), and academic achievement (test scores and grades).

The effect of physical activity on brain may be due to physiological adaptations that are associated with enhanced attention, better information processing and recall, and improved attitudes. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the activity is delivered through physical education classes, classroom activity, recess (especially outdoors), or extracurricular activity—it’s the movement that matters!

The point is that good nutrition and physical activity support academic success and including them in schools is a natural fit. Research and practical experience shows that nutrition and physical activity have a positive effect on learning. In many ways, health education is just as important as reading and math, topics schools don’t trust parents to teach on their own, to future success.

Some argue that parents, not schools, should be responsible for promoting physical activity and good nutrition. I disagree! Since nutrition and activity improve academic performance, schools are the perfect place to teach about healthy lifestyles. There is also no guarantee that children will have opportunities to eat well or be physically active when they go home, so school may be the best chance for many kids to get these benefits.

Given that most children will get only limited opportunities for physical activity and good nutrition school, these topics necessarily become “homework.” Since most of us could stand to be more active and eat healthier ourselves, we should start by modeling good habits for our children and grandchildren.

Going for a walk in the neighborhood, going to the playground, or doing yard work along with preparing healthy meals and snacks is a good start. Parents and community members should also express their concerns to lawmakers and administrators in an effort to get more health education included in the school day. We should treat nutrition and activity like we treat other subjects. How would you feel if your child’s school wasn’t teaching math?

This isn’t new, of course. I have written about the both the importance of physical activity for growth and learning for children (and adults, too) and the impact of these missed opportunities before. And I’m certainly not the only one to take notice. Probably the most widely known advocate in this area is Jamie Oliver, and his efforts made nutrition and health in schools topics for discussion among parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians alike.


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Thanks to my phone and my chair, my spine hates me!

I saw an article in the Atlantic recently about the stress that looking down at your iPhone puts on your neck. There is more to the story, but the graphic in the article makes it obvious that looking down like that for extended periods multiple times per day certainly isn’t natural.

 

This reminded me of a similar graphic describing the effects of prolonged sitting on the spine (and elsewhere)  in the Washington Post earlier this year.

 

No wonder back pain is such a huge problem!

 

 

Go outside and play!

If you are like most people, you have probably spent much of the day indoors, probably sitting. In fact, this is likely how you spend most days. According to one survey, the average American may spend up to 15 hours per day sitting at work or at home. If you subtract sleeping, this accounts for nearly the entire day!

Prolonged sitting has been linked to negative health effects that are similar to those of not exercising. Even among people who do exercise, those who spend more time sitting tend to have more health problems than those who are more active during the day. Consider yourself lucky if you have a job that keeps you active.

The good news is that you can offset the health effects of sitting too much. Taking short breaks at work can improve attention and productivity. In fact, many time management and productivity techniques include periods of focused work separated by breaks. Using these breaks to get up and move is good for your body and your mind. The same is true at home—getting off the couch during TV commercials can have the same benefits.

Even greater benefits can be gained from dedicating more time to be active, especially regular exercise. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of physical activity. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing.

Being active in a natural environment seems to have an even bigger impact on mental health. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Indeed, activity outdoors leads to enhanced feelings of energy and diminished fatigue, anxiety, anger, and sadness compared to similar activity conducted indoors. Additionally, some research suggests that outdoor activity may improve attention in adults and children.

Another advantage of exercising outdoors is that you might get a better workout. This is mostly due to the fact that you will likely walk or run faster outdoors, but other factors like wind resistance add to your effort. Research shows that even though people tend to exercise at a higher intensity outside, they don’t necessarily feel it. In fact, ratings of effort are lower outdoors for the same exercise.

This because the pleasant visual stimuli outdoors distracts you from unpleasant sensations of effort during exercise. This is the same reason that listening to music makes exercise more enjoyable and why fitness centers have televisions on the walls or built into exercise equipment. Think of the outdoors as a really big TV screen!

Almost any indoor exercise can be moved outdoors. While walking, running, and cycling are most obvious, resistance training exercises using body weight and many high-intensity interval training workouts can be modified for outdoors. Yoga and aerobics classes in the park are also great ways to promote both the physical and psychological benefits of exercise.

Much of the psychological benefit of outdoor exercise occurs in the first five minutes, so even short bouts of activity are meaningful. It also means that going for a short walk outside when you have a break at work or walking instead of driving short distances can have positive effects. At home, taking the dog for a walk, playing outside with the kids, or doing yard work are good ways to be active and reap the benefits of being outdoors.

Every little bit of activity you do outdoors will have both physical and psychological benefits to help you become and feel healthier. So, go outside and play!

Why you should get up out of your office chair right now.

It’s Friday afternoon. Between your time spent at home and at work, you have probably been sitting for much of the week. It’s time to get up out of your chair right now!

Sitting is Killing You

Sitting Is Killing You | Medical Billing & Coding [via Lifehacker]

Since it is Friday afternoon, why not head down to your local pedal-powered pub for happy hour!