Sit less. That is the resolution that was suggested by my community health-sharing plan (saving me nearly $1,000 a month on my insurance premiums so, of course, I will listen to them). It sounds so simple, but sitting is so ingrained in our culture that obeying the edict has been a difficult challenge. Take a seat, sit a spell, save a seat, sit down and shut up, seating capacities (as if you can’t have enough), rooms full of chairs, benches, stools, pews … we are trained to sit. Where did the dance floor go?
We are a sitting culture of all ages, sedentary in our ways — even those of us who are outdoor enthusiasts, avid workout warriors and trailblazers. The amount of research on this topic is ginormous. Bottom line is that the average person sits 12 hours per day. Test it. I did! Yep, sitting for long periods of time … in the car, during meetings, while eating, in front of the computer, at a restaurant, at town council meetings, in church, watching TV, just sitting, sitting, sitting. I hate to be negative, but not moving is the fourth-leading mortality risk factor, with 3.2 million deaths per year related to physical inactivity. What? I don’t want to think how much time I spent watching Hallmark movies this past holiday season (it was ranked first in viewership, so I wasn’t alone). After just 20 minutes of sitting, blood pools in your legs and pressure mounts in your spine. OK — stand up right now… please!
My FitBit yells at me regularly… now I understand why. Twenty minutes seems to be the turning point. After that measly 20 minutes of sitting, you increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol and diabetes; you affect your brain health, circulation, bone health and more. Breaking that spell creates an upside on focus, mood, fall prevention, energy and productivity. Just 10 minutes of movement will increase mental focus. Think about it … why are you still sitting there?
Take a stand! Get off your butt, jump up, move around, touch your toes, get your blood flowing — your health depends on it. Instead of fast-forwarding through commercials, use that time to take a couple laps around the room. Seniors are particularly susceptible to a mobility disability (requiring crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs) from sitting too much, especially when three hours or less per week are spent in physical activity. So let’s get moving; ramp up the physical activity and spend less time sitting. Every little bit counts!
While exercisers are not immune, a new study revealed that daily physical activity counters the effects of long-term sitting. There is hope! There are lots of easy and accessible options in the Mid-Valley for daily, moderate intensity breaks. Many still don’t know about the variety of trails in Crown Mountain Park.
First there is the mile-loop that does just that … loop around the park. It is cleared daily and relatively flat so a good option for most anyone at any speed.
There are off-loop trails “in the native” for the person that wants to get off the beaten path and change it up each day. Park over by the tennis courts and head to the corner by the BMX track, duck under the national forest boundary fence and follow the three levels of trails that run the length of the park, that lead to, or offer a view of, the Roaring Fork River (wear appropriate footwear as weather conditions change the terrain). One can wander for hours on these paths and see less than a handful of other people … good for you and good for the soul.
All these trails, it should be noted, are dog friendly.
If Crown isn’t your thing, try the park along East Valley Road in Willits. It is paved and you can create a loop of long or short duration.
Arbaney Park in Basalt also has a small loop, but can be full of dogs and errant soccer balls.
Of course, if you need a little incentive from your peers to take it to the next level, you may try organized non-sitting, also known as group exercise. There is a plethora of yoga studios, CrossFit, The Gym Basalt, TAC FITness, and personal trainers that offer classes at all levels.
Eagle County Healthy Aging offers senior exercise classes (stretch, Pilates and tai chi) at the El Jebel Community Center on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Pitkin County offers classes every weekday at the senior center in Aspen (tai chi, balance, yoga, Pilates, Adventures in Movement).
Pitkin County Senior Services even started hosting classes in Redstone twice a month (tai chi and yoga).
For the more adventurous, Carbondale Rec Center has drop-in pickleball, a pickleball league, broomball and a variety of fitness clinics (Better Shoulders, Better Knees, etc.).
Silver Sneakers is also available at TAC FITness and the Carbondale Rec Center.
So many options, plenty of time (come on, you know it).
Moving around helps your physical and mental being — immediate gratification — who doesn’t like that? It can improve your mood and ward off depression, increase your strength and balance, prevent or delay disease and boost your overall health. Sit less, move more. Let’s do this.
Mary Kenyon has been working with Pitkin County Senior Services and Eagle County Healthy Aging over the past five years and is currently exercising away the effects of sitting/watching holiday chick flicks. Email her your senior matters at firstname.lastname@example.org