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  1. Health

Little everyday movements make a difference

Scientists have suggested that prolonged sitting can be as bad for us as smoking. Even if you do your daily 30-minute scheduled workouts, studies tell us that may not be enough movement for people who otherwise lead sedentary lives. Prolonged sitting can:

• Contribute to poor posture, which may lead to neck and lower back pain.

• Slow your metabolism.

• Decrease strength in the back, buttocks and core.

• Decrease cardiovascular health.

• Encourage weight gain. (Sitting for extended periods reduces an enzyme needed to convert fat into energy.)

To prevent all that, simply introduce more movement into your everyday life. And you don't have to run a marathon. Whether you are stuck at a desk or sitting on the couch, get up and move around every 30 minutes.

Educating yourself on NEAT — non-exercise activity thermogenesis — will help in your efforts. What exactly is non-exercise activity thermogenesis? It's the spontaneous energy we create during everyday living. It doesn't include sleeping, eating, traditional exercise or sports-related activities, but it does include standing, fidgeting, housework, gardening, walking your dog, yard work and washing your car. So go ahead and talk with your hands and fidget all you want. Those little movements add up to a healthier day.

A few ways to add movement

• Get a pedometer or an activity tracker such as a
Fitbit to motivate you to move and to record your steps.

• Take another lap around the grocery store.

• Pace while talking on the phone.

• Turn up the music and dance around the house. Besides amping up the cardio, it revs up endorphins.

• Use TV commercials as a signal to get up and get a drink of water. Include a few stretches on your way.

• When you're in the kitchen, hold on to the counter and do knee lifts and leg extensions.

• While brushing your teeth, perform hamstring curls.

Working in a sedentary environment?

Standing desks are becoming more popular, but sitting on a stability ball is a good substitute.

• Keep weights at your desk. Use them a few times a day.

• Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

• Press the small of your back against the back of the chair and alternate knee lifts and leg extensions.

• Help prevent swollen ankles and feet with seated calf raises, lifting your heels off the floor while keeping your toes grounded.

• Sitting tall, stretch your chest and strengthen posture muscles by interlacing your hands behind your back and holding for eight to 10 seconds. Remember to breathe.

• Use movement to release tension in your head, neck and shoulders by slowly moving your head up and down and side to side. Add a few shoulder rolls.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

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