The importance of movement

May 26, 2015

Feature_SP15_BlogHomePage_SP15_229x200Movement. It seems like the simplest thing in the world. Our bodies are designed to run, jump and manipulate objects, among other miracles of locomotion. But how often do we use our bodies at their full potential?

Sit. Stay. Repeat.

“We’ve made sitting into an art form,” says James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Arizona State University. “Excess sitting is now linked with 35 diseases and conditions, including obesity, hypertension, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression,” he says. “Governments such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have identified sedentary life as a catastrophe.” 

It’s estimated that the current generation of children will die earlier than their parents, and Dr. Levine says many of these projected deaths could be due to diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. “Physical movement benefits school performance. It can increase children’s grades by 10 percent to 15 percent,” says Dr. Levine. 

Excessive sitting is a fairly new problem in human history, according to Dr. Levine. “Two hundred years ago, 90 percent of the world lived in agricultural communities,” he explains. “People sat for three to five hours per day, but only to take breaks from working. Modern Americans sit for 13 to 15 hours per day.”

Whether our ancestors were field workers, community dance leaders or hairdressers, they still walked several miles a day and only sat for brief periods. Compare that to today’s average office worker, who takes a few steps to the car and drives to work to sit in a sea of cubicles for most of the day. “Therefore, perhaps it’s not that surprising that there are consequences for sitting all day long,” says Dr. Levine. “We’re not designed to do it.”

Stand and deliver

Feature_SP15_DrLevineEven if individuals aren’t bothered by the risks of excessive sitting, corporations should be. 

“Productivity is harmed by excessive sitting,” says Dr. Levine. “People who are physically active at work become more productive — about 11 to 15 percent more productive.” 

Moving forward

Dr. Levine presents an example of the difference increased movement can make: “In 2013, the average person’s travel time by foot was four minutes per day in San Francisco,” he says. “If San Francisco were tweaked to become a foot-based city, the overall health benefits of an extra 18 minutes of movement per day would mean a potential 13 percent decrease in premature death for the population.” In San Francisco, this translates to 2,404 premature deaths avoided per year. 

This would rank among one of the greatest health advancements ever made and $34 billion in health care costs saved, according to Dr. Levine.

Although Dr. Levine says defeating the sedentary life isn’t as simple as a few tips and tricks, there are a few things anyone can do to move in the right direction. “Get up and move every hour, at least,” he says. “Take a stroll after eating lunch. Carve out movement-based leisure time and connection time with other people.”

“Once people are up and moving, they never go back,” says Dr. Levine. “This is a fundamental shift in how we function, but health gets better with movement, productivity gets better, and people enjoy their jobs — and lives — more.”


The importance of movement after an arthritis diagnosis

Feature_SP15_Sidebar_Matteson“Our bodies are built for movement, and movement helps joints stay healthy,” says Eric Matteson, M.D., chair of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Arthritis occurs when cartilage and bone in joints deteriorate. Inflammation can be associated with it, as a cause or consequence.

“We actually know of more than 100 kinds of arthritis. Some of them are caused when the immune system attacks joint linings,” says Dr. Matteson. “The common denominator for all forms of arthritis is that joints can become painful and swollen. Over time, they can become damaged.” This impairs mobility and leads to the disability arthritis can cause.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects more than 40 million Americans. Although it’s linked to genetics in many cases, it’s also caused by trauma and getting older. However, it doesn’t have to be completely debilitating.

Low-impact, aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and biking, can improve symptoms and joint health. Dr. Matteson says there is no question that movement is important to not only improve symptoms but lessen the impact of arthritis.

Moving forward

Dr. Levine presents an example of the difference increased movement can make: “In 2013, the average person’s travel time by foot was four minutes per day in San Francisco,” he says. “If San Francisco were tweaked to become a foot-based city, the overall health benefits of an extra 18 minutes of movement per day would mean a potential 13 percent decrease in premature death for the population.” In San Francisco, this translates to 2,404 premature deaths avoided per year.

This would rank among one of the greatest health advancements ever made and $34 billion in health care costs saved, according to Dr. Levine.

Although Dr. Levine says defeating the sedentary life isn’t as simple as a few tips and tricks, there are a few things anyone can do to move in the right direction. “Get up and move every hour, at least,” he says. “Take a stroll after eating lunch. Carve out movement-based leisure time and connection time with other people.”

“Once people are up and moving, they never go back,” says Dr. Levine. “This is a fundamental shift in how we function, but health gets better with movement, productivity gets better, and people enjoy their jobs — and lives — more.”



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