By Libby Mitchell, social media coordinator, University of Utah Health Care
Americans are becoming more sedentary – and it’s killing us. A new report from the American Heart Association says sitting too long can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other ailments – even in people who exercise regularly. “We need to get moving,” says John Ryan, M.D., a cardiologist with University of Utah Health Care. “In both our professional lives and home lives we are not moving enough.”
The changing employment market is a big reason Americans are moving less. During the 1960’s half of all jobs required some sort of physical activity. Currently fewer than 20 percent do. Existing evidence shows between sitting at the office and sitting at home the average American adult is sedentary for between six and eight hours a day. “That level of inactivity can lead to an increase for a variety of cardiovascular disease,” says Ryan. “You are increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.”
Sedentary careers are only part of the problem. While people may be aware they are sitting at work, they may not know how much they are sitting elsewhere, adding to their total of sedentary time. Time spent sitting during the commute is factor. Technology may also play a role. “At home we spend time sitting watching television,” says Ryan. “Then during leisure time we are sitting looking at our phones.”
The first step to getting moving is realizing how sedentary you are, and then changing your routine. Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to get up and move. If you make it a point to make a change you are more likely to follow through long term. “People also need to take ownership of it and take initiative,” says Ryan. “Not only breaking up inactive time, but also making sure to get 30 minutes of exercise five days a week that gets your heart going.”
While technology may be responsible for some of our sedentary behaviors, it could also help in eliminating it. For instance, cell phones mean we are no longer tethered to our desks. So, when taking or making calls get up and walk. Or download an app that tracks steps or otherwise encourages you to move. “The interest in Pokemon Go has gotten people moving,” says Ryan. “They are using their phones and they are exercising.”
Once you start to think about it, there are lots creative ways to get up and get moving during the day. Don’t carpool to lunch – walk instead. Substitute meetings in stuffy rooms with a walk around the block. Not only will it get you moving, but the increased circulation and change of scenery may clear out some of the mental cobwebs that have accumulated while you’ve been sitting staring at a computer screen.
Your overall mental state is likely to improve the more you move. Research has found that regular exercise helps release chemicals like endorphins in the brain that play a part in improving mood. In fact, a 1999 study found regular exercise did more to eliminate feelings of depression than anti-depressants did. “If you are active and less depressed your life will improve,” says Ryan.
Americans slowly became more sedentary over a series of decades. However, we don’t have the same amount of time to reverse the trend. Instead we all need to start right now, one step at a time. “Take the initiative to make a positive change in your life,” says Ryan.
EAT LIKE AN OLYMPIAN
Do you remember the buzz about U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’ diet during the 2008 Summer Olympics? With 22 Olympic medals to date — 18 of them gold – this ultra-athlete consumes as many as 12,000 calories during the training days prior to his races. Phelps starts his day with a breakfast of “three fried-egg sandwiches, three chocolate chip pancakes, a five-egg omelet, three sugar-coated slices of French toast, and a bowl of grits.”
We’re not suggesting that your weekend warrior pursuits or daily power walks justify anywhere near the caloric mega-consumption required by Olympic athletes. Your daily needs are based on your basal metabolic rate — the number of calories you burn regularly just going about your daily life — and the frequency and intensity of your exercise program.
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For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.
By Alana Schroeder, web content specialist, Interactive Marketing & Web Team at University of Utah Health Care
Snuggly pooches and chunky-cheeked babies: Just about nothing is cuter than pets and babies, right? But after finding out you’re pregnant, many new parents wonder if they can keep their dog once their newborn arrives.
“Your pet is part of your family,” explains Cindy Gellner, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician at the University of Utah. “Adopting out your pet is a last resort.”
Cuteness aside, can you keep your dog without worrying your baby will be safe?
Train your dog before baby arrives
It’s 3am, and your infant starts screaming bloody murder.
A baby’s cries, unexpected jerks, and screams can stress adults out, let alone animals – especially when they’ve never spent time around children.
For both dog and baby, a good goal is to get them calm and comfortable around each other. Teach your dog how to calm down before baby comes by making sure your dog is well-trained and can follow basic commands like sit, down, and stay.
“A well-behaved dog is always good – new baby or not,” Gellner reminds us. Training your dog not to jump on others – for example – will protect your newborn (and yourself) when you’re pregnant.
Take advantage of smells
Because dogs use smells (called olfactory sense) to recognize their surroundings, you can reduce stress and surprise by familiarizing your dog to your new baby’s scent.
“When your baby is born, ask the nursery to let you bring home a hat or shirt that your baby wore on their first day of life and let your pet smell it so they get familiar with the scent of their new family member,” says Gellner.
Gellner also advises parents to prepare ahead by letting your dog spend time in the baby’s nursery.
Don’t leave dog and baby alone together
For the first few years, make sure your dog will behave calmly and safely around your child. “This new baby is invading their space and some animals can be pretty aggressive,” says Gellner. If you can’t supervise your baby and your dog at the same time, consider putting your dog in an enclosed room or a pen, or taking her to a friend’s house.
“While those cute pictures of babies and pets are pretty adorable, don’t underestimate that, until your pet feels comfortable with their new human sibling, they are going to be territorial,” adds Gellner.
Don’t forget to use positive conditioning (like treats) to reward your dog when she behaves well, especially around your baby.
Pets for better health?
To avoid the heartbreak of giving your dog up for adoption, new parents can use:
- and smell therapy
to ensure dogs behave calmly and obediently around newborns.
Don’t forget that keeping your pet doesn’t just benefit you. Pets may make babies healthier by preventing allergies and strengthening the immune system, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. How cute is that?