Americans love shortcuts, quick fixes and short sound bites in every aspect of our lives. Nowhere is this more evident than in the health and diet industry where billions are spent needlessly appealing to this potentially damaging “flaw” in our national personality. But who can blame us? We live in an emerging high tech, fast paced world where instant gratification and information surrounds us. In the back of our heads though, there is a consistent refrain, embedded from our parent’s generation, that causes self loathing and guilt at our inability to regain control over our health. 

Fountain Youth Walking

“There’s no quick fix”, “no pain-no gain”, “a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips”- these messages linger in the back or our minds causing stress and feelings of inadequacy for not living up to the countless regimens of new diet and exercise plans that have witnessed the fattening of America over the past few decades.


But what if there really was a short cut? What if there was a quick fix that could re-invigorate the health of the nation? 


Better yet, what if it was free?


Well, please pay attention - because yes America there is a short cut to better health, weight loss and longevity and it doesn’t cost a dime. 




Step One. Get off of the coach and out of the chair as much as possible during the day. Especially immediately following meal times.


Let’s focus on this part first since it is such a challenge to most Americans. We will need to break it down to environments at work, at home and in-between.


Home: For most Americans their sanctuary is a den of inactivity with a couch and entertainment system that beckons them to stay put for endless hours. There are numerous studies showing that watching television shortens lifespan, one study in fact computed that after the age of 25 every hour of television watching shortened lifespan by 21.8 minutes. That’s a pretty sobering statistic but not enough to keep most of us from binge watching episodes of Breaking Bad. 


So, where is the shortcut or quick fix that eradicates this problem? 


Turns out, it is as easy as standing up and moving slowly in place or around the living room for five minutes every quarter hour or so. TV isn’t killing us - inactivity is. More on this later.


Office: Eight to ten hours a day perched in an office chair is also a dead certain prescription for ill health and a shortened lifespan, even for those that ran five miles in the morning or hit the gym for an hour before heading to work. Just four hours of sitting equated to an 80% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 46% increased risk of mortality from all diseases.


Standing and moving as much as possible is the answer again for this challenge as well. Standing desks, treadmill desks , and desk modifications that promote standing have burst onto the scene in the past five years to break the syndrome of “cubicle captivity” that threatens the health of a majority of Americans.


In-Between: Now that there are solutions for home and office inactivity Americans need to be educated further about the in-between hours which for many involve long commutes in excess of 90 minutes to and from work. A recent study warned of the physical and mental hazards posed by long commutes and suggested walking and cycling as better alternatives. 


Great advice but for most Americans impractical if not impossible. There was a silver lining to the study that showed mass transit as a healthier alternative due to more opportunities for social interaction, less stress, and greater opportunity for mobility. Car pooling (though not ideal), buses, train, subways etc. all were favored over the single car commute.


Step Two: Stay in motion for a 30 minute minimum following any meal. Many may remember their grandparents recommending a walk after a meal. What many do not realize is that there is some solid science behind the advice. 


Studies by Dr. Marc Hamilton of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU brought to light the importance of an enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase. Without getting too technical lipase serves as a traffic cop for calories and routes them to either adipose tissue (fat cells) or muscle tissue. If you remain seated after a meal lipase production is virtually non-existent in your cells however getting up and doing the dishes, household chores or taking a walk activate lipase within the body and insure that your meal goes more towards a potential muscle pump than to one’s rump.


Step Three: Remain Diligent -Your Body is Listening - Remain active as much as possible during the day because your body is like the Alice Kravitz of neighbors. It’s always watching, always listening. If you are sedentary it is going to alert the most important cells in your body, your T-Cells. 


Our cells are constantly being replaced, on average every 3 months. Think of it as the new you every quarter. How much you move (or sit), what you eat, what you drink is monitored by your body. Why should you care? If you are sitting too much your body translates this as an urgent call to conserve calories and races to produce more fat cells to assist in the endeavor. Basically immobility is interpreted as a danger after millions of years of evolution. If we weren’t moving we were either under attack, injured, sick or lacked energy due to insufficient food supplies. Today, this immobility translates to the production of as much as 50% more fat cells ready to assist in the storing of extra calories.


Those going to the gym, jogging, exercising with weights, yoga and Pilates but not losing excess weight need to take a more honest look at how often during the day they are sedentary. 


Your Life(Span) Depends On It: A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and written about by Gretchen Reynolds in the NY Times focused on the impact of sitting and exercise on people’s telomeres. Telomeres are the end pieces capping DNA strands which are known to shorten and unravel as we age. Telomere health is critical to long term health and longevity. 


Swedish researches analyzed the impact of sitting and exercise on a group of overweight, sedentary men and women (aged 68) by first cataloguing the length and health of their telomeres. One group was then assigned a moderate exercise regime and asked to sit less. The control group was urged to lose weight and be healthy without any more specific guidelines. 


At the end of six months they were analyzed for telomere health and questioned as to their activity levels. The researchers found that the telomeres of individuals who sat the least had actually lengthened; tantamount to actual age reversal- in effect, their cells grew younger.


Exercise surprisingly showed little correlation to changes in telomere length. Those who loathe exercise may take solace in the fact that telomere length actually shortened and frayed more among those that exercised more than test subjects that simply sat less. 


What’s the take away? Stay up, stay busy at a moderate level and odds are you will live a healthier, happier, longer life.

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