My mom hated exercise! She was so averse to it that she recoiled from activity completely in her later years in the skilled nursing facility. For the last ten years of her life she was completely dependent on a wheel chair to get around. I am convinced now that had she simply stood up more often, gotten out of her bed instead of lying down most of her 24 hours a day, she not only would have lived longer, but would have enjoyed life a lot more.
You may have heard the phrase recently “sitting is the new smoking”. It turns out there is some significant scientific data behind this saying. In her book, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, Dr. Joan Vernikos outlines the dangers of sitting and strategies to overcome it.
Studies show that Inactivity produces adverse effects that are very similar to those experienced by astronauts in space: bone loss, muscle atrophy, and a weakening of the vestibular system (responsible for helping us stay balanced). The vestibular system also influences blood pressure. Low blood pressure can lead to fainting and precipitate falls as well.
Standing up for 15 minutes every two hours effectively counteracts the ill effects of sitting. Other data suggests standing up once for a minute or two every 20 to 30 minutes is a good countermeasure. Intermittent standing is a wonderful way to keep us biologically “tuned”. It is recommended we stand up over 30 times a day. Home care agencies, and the companionship and reminders they provide, can assist in getting your aging loved one to accomplish this.
The fact that most people spend long hours sitting for work is a significant problem, causes bone and muscle loss, diminishes spatial orientation as it attacks the Vestibular system. The poor balance that we often see in seniors puts them at significant risk of falling (the number one reason people over 65 go to the ER). It now appears that much of this can be prevented if we encourage seniors to stand up 2-3 times per hour.
If a Home Care Agency’s client is confined to a wheel chair, a stand-up chair can be purchased that can even be used in the Stand-up capable mode to go shopping. This has the added advantage of allowing you to see everything at eye-level.
Home Care Agencies can develop a Care Plan that can incorporate these routines. And it is much easier for a caregiver to coax a senior to stand up than it is to get them to cooperate to “exercise.” In fact, in one study, intermittent standing was more effective and productive to overall health than exercising on a treadmill for 15 minutes every 2 hours! For the elderly, simply standing every 15 minutes is more effective for their health than walking for 15 minutes every 2 hours.
The main take away from these studies is that for optimal health it is best if we stand up and stay in motion. It does not have to be strenuous, rigorous exercise, but can be simple, satisfying activities like cooking, housecleaning, stirring a pot of soup, gardening, hanging clothes, feeding and caring for your pets. Even bending over to pick up a penny on the floor counts.
Bringing a pet into your house can make you more active, as well as improve your health because of the therapeutic effect pets have on us. Caring for and playing with pets while standing and moving can be very helpful.
For myself and my staff at Harmony Home Care, we use stand up desks to help prevent the adverse effects of sitting at a desk all day. We find we feel better, have fewer aches and pains, fewer back problems, and enjoy the day more.
In summary: Intermittent, frequent standing is a powerful, inexpensive and highly effective strategy for health and longevity.