Move to Live: The Link Between Longevity and Exercise


Do You Sit Too Much?

We live in a sedentary society. Many of us drive or take a train to work, sometimes commuting for 30 minutes or more. Once at work, we often sit, staring at screens for hours upon hours. Trading our precious time for dollars.

By the time the workday is over, many of us start our other jobs: childcare, cooking, chores, side hustles, etc… And before we know it, we’re ready to plop down in front on the TV and just collapse.

And then the alarm rings and it’s time to do it all over again. Right?

longevity and exerciseWhy do we need to move to live longer? Studies show that being sedentary and sitting more— as well spending more time watching TV— can increase the risk for chronic diseases and early death.

A 2018 study showed that deaths from cardiovascular disease and the occurrence of type 2 diabetes increased with higher levels of total sitting as well as TV viewing time.

The same study showed that sitting for more than 6 hours per day increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as did watching TV for more than 3-4 hours per day.

Move for Longetivity

For women of color, it’s absolutely vital that we prioritize our health and our self-care. We must be our best selves so that we can take care of our families and communities the way that we want to.

Part of prioritizing our health means getting in physical activity and gaining the mental peace that we need to be healthy, resilient, and strong.

Looking out for Number One is not wrong.

Moving to live longer is especially important for black women. According to 2015 data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, African American women are 60% more likely to be obese than white women, and 4 out of 5 African American women were classified as overweight or obese.

Why does this matter? Obesity and lack of physical activity are linked to higher levels of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and numerous other life-altering consequences.

Death rates from heart disease and stroke are higher for African Americans as compared to whites.

Move to Live Longer: The Evidence

Professor Ulf Ekelund and other researchers from Norway recently published a study in the British Medical Journal. They analyzed multiple studies to determine if there was a link between lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, and risk of early death.

The researchers found that the risk of death was about five times higher for people who were inactive as compared to those who were the most active! And there was a significantly higher risk of death for those that had sedentary times of 9.5 or more hours per day.

The good news from the study was that you can reduce your risk of early death with even light activity. Higher levels of total physical activity at any intensity and less time spent sedentary were associated with a much lower risk of early death.

Even light intensity activity, like doing dishes or cooking may be helpful at reducing your risk!

All Activity Counts!

One thing is clear, any activity is better than no activity. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift 50-pound weights at the gym to be active. Walking, chores, making lunches for your kids…. it all counts towards physical activity.

Incorporating physical activity into your busy life can start with baby steps. You might want to incorporate a pedometer or fitness app into your routine so that you can track your progress.

Ways to Boost Your Activity

  • Park further away from the door
  • Take the stairs
  • Walk on your lunch breaks
  • Sit on an exercise ball at the office (engages your core more than a chair)
  • Do squats while brushing your teeth or cooking
  • Walk while your kids ride their bikes
  • Get off the bus/train one stop early and walk the rest
  • Do some housework
  • Put on some music and dance with the family for 5 minutes before/after dinner
  • Meet a friend to walk instead of going out for coffee or a drink
  • Instead of sitting and looking at your phone, walk around while your kid is at sports practice.
  • Do squats or crunches during commercial breaks when you watch your favorite show

Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.

Moving more can translate into a healthier and longer life. You don’t have to be a gym rock star or be the next contestant on American Ninja Warrior to reap the benefits of physical activity. Start small, do it often, engage your support system, and don’t stop moving.

About the Author:
Raechele Cochran Gathers, MD is a board-certified dermatologist, writer and founder of the health and wellness website, MDhairmixtress.com.

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