If you’re a middle age woman who sits many hours a day, you’re at risk for becoming frail and weak later on, yet this is just SO preventable.
No, being over 65 is NOT an excuse for becoming frail. If you know of any “frail old ladies,” chances are they’ve done just too much sitting over the years (and no strength training).
University of Queensland (St. Lucia, Australia) researchers (Susanto et al) took a look at the effects of excessive sitting in over 5,400 middle age women who were tracked for 12 years.
The woman who were enrolled in this study were born between 1946 and 1951. They self-reported their daily sitting time.
What Is Frailty?
From a layperson’s perspective, frailty is that “little old lady” look.
You’ve seen it plenty of times throughout the course of your life.
Chances are, you have or have had a frail elderly female relative and chalked that condition up to the inevitable outcome of old age.
Yes, if we live long enough we’ll all get frail, but frailty does not have to occur in one’s 70s.
There are even 90-year-olds who do not meet the medical criteria for frailty.
• The participants were assigned a frailty score ranging from zero (healthy) to five (frail).
• Sitting time was categorized as low (3.5 hours/day), medium (5.5 hours/day) and high (10 hours/day).
A more medical definition of frailty is that the individual is at high risk for a bone fracture if they fall.
Plus, if they get sick (e.g., pneumonia) or injured (e.g., hip fracture) they have fewer reserves in their “recovery fund” to bounce back.
They have that old, aged look, move slowly, walk slowly, tire easily and look very weak.
The study showed that middle aged women who sat 10 hours a day were at highest risk of developing frailty.
This result is not a surprise to anyone who’s aware of the “sitting disease” and how disastrous it is to one’s health on so many levels.
And men are far from immune from the hazards of excessive daily sitting.
The University of Queensland study points out that reducing daily sitting time by two hours is enough to make a difference – but don’t let that trick you into thinking that eight hours a day of sitting is medically acceptable. It’s nowhere near it.
The full report is in the June 2018 American Journal of Epidemiology.
One Way Prolonged Sitting Affects the Body
“What most people don’t realize is that sitting is basically an endurance sport,” says Dr. Megan McLain, PT, DPT, cofounder of Intuitive Choice Physical Therapy & Wellness in Atlanta, GA.
“Just like if you ran a marathon, you would be asking all of the muscles in your legs, core and arms to be working for hours while you’re running — when you sit all day for work, the muscles along your spine are working for hours.
“This, plus the extra compression on the spine all day from sitting. can lead to increased achiness over time.
“This also can lead to decreased glute activation over time because they are not as active during sitting as they are with standing.
“Basically, sitting and working on computers all day can create muscle imbalances that can make performing other activities like standing, reaching overhead and getting up from a chair more difficult over time unless you counteract it with a proper strengthening program.”
But from an adherence standpoint, reducing sitting time by only two hours a day won’t seem overwhelming; it’s easy to do.
Once you knock your daily sitting time down by a few hours, aim to decrease it by another two hours. Try to get your daily sitting time down to five hours.
• Pace or do stationary light exercises while watching TV.
• Buy a treadmill desk and use it for home computer work.
• See if your workplace will let you use a treadmill desk.
• Stand/pace while talking or texting inside your house.
• Stand or pace as much as possible during the tasks of daily living (e.g., opening snail mail, detangling your hair, sorting and folding laundry, eating a snack).
To further offset future frailty, commit to scheduled sessions of strength training exercise.
Relying upon household or outdoor chores is not an efficacious approach, because the performance of chores is based on when these tasks need to be done—such as a dirty floor needing mopping—rather than “I’m going to exercise to avoid frailty.”
Finally, when you’re sitting for extended periods, at least get up every 45 minutes and do something, ANYTHING, to be on your feet for five minutes.
Interruptions from sitting stints do make a difference and will help defray frailty.
Dr. Megan McLain, PT, DPT, puts her clients first while providing one-on-one in-home care. With physical therapy and health coaching services, Dr. McLain addresses all aspects such as physical barriers, mindset, accountability and knowledge that may be impacting the client’s experience.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.