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How to Combat a Sedentary Lifestyle

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Man sitting at desk working on a computer

How many times a day do you find yourself sitting? In traffic? At work? On the couch after a long day at the office? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American adult sits anywhere from 6.5 to 8 hours per day. If you fall into that category, you’ll want to listen up, especially if you’re a male.

Researchers at the The Cooper Institute surveyed approximately 6,300 men and women on how much time they spent sitting. Then, they measured the size of their waistlines and percentage of body fat. The study showed middle-aged men were more likely to be obese.

S. Michael Clark, MD, Preventive Medicine Physician at Cooper Clinic, talks about why a sedentary lifestyle can put you at risk for certain diseases and why it’s important to get moving, even if just for a few minutes.

How Often Should You Move?

Just how dangerous is a sedentary lifestyle?

“If someone sits all day and doesn’t engage in activity throughout the day, it increases their risk of all-cause morbidity and mortality,” says Dr. Clark. He says it can also increase your risk for certain conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized, he recommends exercising most days of the week. Specifically, Dr. Cooper recommends moderate physical activity for a collective 30 minutes a day, five days a week. He also recommends two days of strength training.

By accomplishing that, you will log 150 minutes of exercise every week. That’s the magic number to reap the benefits of heart health, prevent diabetes, cancer and other diseases, and improve quality and quantity of life.

Why Is A Sedentary Lifestyle Common?

Dr. Clark admits living a sedentary lifestyle isn’t anything new, but says over the last several decades, he’s noticed an even bigger increase.

“People don’t walk to work, they don’t walk to the grocery store, especially in areas where that would be impractical geographically,” says Dr. Clark. “Dallas is a great example of that. Even things that are close by really aren’t in walking distance and because of that, we’re less active.”

The sedentary lifestyle has now trickled into the work place, where Dr. Clark says even people who are on-the-go find themselves sitting frequently.

“People travel more for work and that gets in the way of an exercise routine,” says Dr. Clark. “I encourage my travelers to learn a few exercises they can do in the hotel fitness center or even in their hotel room.”

Dr. Clark also encourages his patients who travel frequently to park further away at the airport and hotel and opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

How To Combat A Sedentary Lifestyle At Work

If you have a job that doesn’t allow for much movement throughout the day, Dr. Clark says there is a bit of good news.

“I think corporate culture for decades has dictated a sedentary lifestyle,” says Dr. Clark. “But because of studies like the one done at The Cooper Institute, many corporations have worked diligently to correct that and have encouraged healthy behaviors.”

He says even small movements throughout the day can make a difference.

“Recent studies show if every hour you get up from your computer or desk and walk briskly for two minutes, that will make a huge difference,” says Dr. Clark. “That’s very encouraging because most people can do that.”

Dr. Clark says many people will set their watch or fitness trackers to beep every hour to remind them to go take a brief walk.

Dr. Clark’s Recommendations

When patients come to see Dr. Clark at Cooper Clinic, he often recommends two things.

“When someone comes to see me, I talk exercise programs but I also talk to them about not being sedentary,” says Dr. Clark.

While it doesn’t meet the criteria for an exercise program, non-sedentary movement is still important. Examples include walking around your living room during the commercials of your favorite TV show or mowing your own lawn.

If you’re looking to start a more rigorous exercise plan, Dr. Clark says it’s imperative that you get a comprehensive preventive exam first, like the one offered at Cooper Clinic. The Cooper exam includes six standard components outlined by our expert physicians. Each step is critical in providing an accurate, in-depth look at your overall health.

“It’s important to know what your risk factors are individually,” says Dr. Clark. “Remember, you don’t have to do anything special to not be sedentary. Just move.”  

For more information about Cooper Clinic or to schedule a preventive exam, call 972.560.2667 or visit