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Do you engage in this practice that is worse than smoking?

Before we get started, I would like to ask you if you have had your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, body composition measured and lipid profile measured in the last 6 months to 1 year. In the last newsletter I shared about the importance of doing a health screen for your cardiovascular health and what tests you need to have done regularly. If you missed it, you can read the full article on my website. If you haven’t had these tests done get in touch with us.

This month our focus is on cardiovascular or heart health. And there is one practice in particular that most people engage in that has been shown to be worse than smoking. And that is the practice of excessive sitting. Many of us sit for 8 hours behind a desk, sit on the way to and from work, sit for long hours reading or in class and sit even more when watching TV or relaxing.

And research tells us that this practice may actually be worse than smoking. Well if you do both then that is really a major problem to your health. Excess sitting leads to a sedentary lifestyle while a large number of us know that we should have more physical activity in our lives.

“Sitting is the new smoking” – Dr. James Levine

Many of us know that we should be more active and exercise but not so many of us are actually active enough. And a recent study showed that even if you exercise for a short period on most days (say 30 to 40 minutes) you could still be at increased risk for heart related issues if remain sedentary for the rest of the day. And this is particularly worse if you remain seated for most of the day.

Many of us think that exercising 30 minutes a day is enough to meet your physical activity requirements for great health, but this is only true if you also remain active for most of the day. Some of us are what we now call “Exercising Couch Potatoes”. Such people endeavor to get 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular (or aerobic exercise) on most days but literally spend the most part of their days sitting behind a desk, on a computer, commuting between home and work seated and then reward themselves for their hard days work with a few more hours seated on the couch watching TV. Such people actually feel they are meeting their physical activity requirements when in reality they are not achieving optimum levels of activity.

Of course, if you are an Exercising Couch Potato, you are much better than someone who doesn’t get regular exercise but the “new guidelines” require that we all become more active throughout the day. If you don’t exercise at all then you are really putting your life at great risk and may eventually be a victim or premature heart disease and even death.

Don’t put your family at risk because you think you have no time to exercise. What would you tell your kids if you were no longer able to take care of your kids and they ever asked you why you didn’t put enough priority to exercise?

I would like to urge you to make being active a priority and to remember that physical activity and exercise are relatives but are 2 different things.

So, what are you recommended to do?

  1. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of regular moderate cardiovascular exercise (aerobic in nature) each week with an additional minimum of 15 minutes of strength building and a minimum of 15 minutes of stretching exercises each week. This translates to about 40 minutes per day 5 times a week


  1. Commit to being active on most days. That means avoid spending most of your day sitting down.

Here are 10 tips and suggestions that you can consider integrating into your day to help you avoid being sedentary and push you into the category of people that are classified as being physically active.

  1. For every 1 hour you spend sitting, get up and spend at least 10 - 20 minutes walking around, stretching or being active.

  2. Commit to stand, move and take breaks for at least 2 of the 8 hours you spend at work.

  3. Never sit for more than 1 hour at any given time, whether at work, while travelling or in any other circumstance.

  4. Seriously consider disabling using an intercom telephone system at work, and use every opportunity you need to talk to someone to get up and get some activity.

  5. Take 15-minute walks after every meal or snack.

  6. Take some time to stand as you read or do work that doesn’t require use of your computer. When you have meetings at work, consider having them standing with allowance to walk about rather than seated.

  7. Consider getting a portable adjustable workstation that can allow you to raise your computer or laptop or even part of your desk to a level that can allow you to work while standing. Engage your organization to see if they could support you with this. You can see one of these by clicking here.

  8. Get some desk exercise equipment to keep you active. You can look for an under-desk pedal exerciser that can allow you to frequently pedal and get some extra activity if you have to sit for a while

  9. Take the stairs and avoid the lift or elevator. I’m sure you have heard this before but probably just thought it was a good piece of advice. The next time you are at the elevator, think for a minute and remember that what you are about to do could actually be increasing your risk for heart related problems and obesity.

  10. Leave the car and walk as much as possible when you can. Walk to your meetings within town, walk home if it not too far, park your car a distance from the office and walk the rest of the way or select a location for your lunch out of the office that is within a walking distance.

Think about your life. Do you get moderate exercise at least 150 minutes a week, are you an exercise couch potato or are you still thinking about getting active?

Always remember that power lies not in the knowledge of something but in its practical application.

I hope you can make a commitment to increase your level of physical activity because honestly, I believe we all can make an effort to increase our fitness and activity levels no matter where we are right now.

Being active increases life expectancy and greatly reduces the risk for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Being healthy does not come by chance. It comes by choice. What will you choose to do right now? Begin by getting up to stretch for the next 5 minutes. Yes, right now. You can catch the rest of this later.

In our next newsletter we will be looking at more ways to improve our heart health. Stay tuned and please ask more people to sign up for my newsletter. Invite them to sign up. It only takes 2 minutes but could make a big difference in their health and lives. You can simply share this link with them

If you have found this article useful, please share it with friends and family. Let’s join hands to spread the message of wellness to all. You could save someone’s life by sharing this information.

Also, don’t forget to stay connected on twitter @drpaulkasenene.

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