Janet Marshall is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter. She thinks most things are fine in moderation.
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Another reason to sit less
Last weekend, I read a bummer of a story about what pathetic shape most Americans are in when it comes to saving for retirement. It included the usual info — about how investment accounts tanked and people plundered their savings to pay bills after job losses, etc.
What it made me think was: Here’s another reason to stay in shape.
When it comes to getting older, it’s not just paying bills that people need to plan for. It’s being able to take care of basic needs — grocery shopping, preparing meals, brushing teeth, being able to walk without falling and breaking a hip.
Now, if you break a hip, you will get medical care — a hospital won’t turn you away. But if your problems are less dramatic — maybe arthritis makes food prep frustrating, or you’re a little unsteady on your feet — good luck getting help. Insurance doesn’t cover that sort of non-medical, long-term care. (The exception is long-term care insurance, which most people don’t have because it’s expensive.) And the cost to live in an assisted living center? About 35,000 a year.
Any financial advisor will tell you it’s wise to invest in your financial future as early and often as possible. The same can be said for your health. Invest now in building up strength and flexibility and balance, with an eye toward not only short-term gains like a fitter body and brighter mood, but toward long-term benefits like being independent and strong for as long as possible.
TOOLS FOR KEEPING FIT
A few days ago, I wrote about “sitting disease,” and the importance of moving throughout the day to ward off health problems that can hurt you now and as you age. You can read that post here.
Since then, several people have sent me ideas for how to get hourly (or periodic) reminders to get up and stretch, walk or otherwise keep moving. Here are a few:
- Use apps or computer software to send yourself reminders that it’s time to get up and do something. There are lots of these, some intended to prevent eye strain, some to prevent repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve never tried one, but a web search can point you to several options. You also could set an alarm on your phone, or schedule meetings with yourself using tools like Google calendar.
- Get a gadget like FitBit that tracks your activity throughout the day. Clip it to your waistband and know that it’s monitoring your movements; as one story I read said, “It truly works as a motivator.” A simple pedometer — which counts steps — also can do this, and if you’d like to give one of those a try, let me know; I have a few to give away.
- If you work from home, get a dog. It’s hard to resist their demand for walks. Donya Currie, who writes for Healthy Living, sent me the photo below with a note saying, “Some people have a computer program reminding them to get up from their desk every hour. Or you could try one of these …”
If you’re looking for ideas for quick exercises, read our Healthy Life Virginia newsletter; it includes an “exercise of the day,” with a video demonstration, each weekday.
The key point about “sitting disease,” researchers say, is that it can’t be offset just by doing some pre- or post-work exercise. So even if you run for an hour in the morning, you still need to move throughout the day. What you do now can have short-term perks — weight loss, better sleep — and long-term benefits as well.