Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stand Up For Your Waist

Technology has helped us master the art of convenience. To talk to a colleague, we send an IM or email instead of walking to her office. If we don’t like what’s on the TV, we push a few buttons on the remote sitting next to us. We don’t even need to drive to and then walk into the record store or movie rental store anymore… we access iTunes or Netflix and voila: new music and movies immediately in our hands. But all of this technological advancement is leading to another advancement… that of our expanding waistlines.

A recent study published in the European Heart Journal (January 2011) showed that individuals who spend most of their day sedentary had waistlines that were 4 cm larger than those who frequently moved around. Those 4cm do more than just require one buy a larger size pair of jeans. Waist to hip ratio and waist circumference are two measurements that are key indicators of cardiovascular health.  Excess fat located in the abdominal area has been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased risk for diabetes.

So how sedentary are you?  Do you spend the majority of your work day in front of a computer? Do you frequently veg out in front of the TV or video game console?  Let’s calculate:  assuming you get 7 hours of sleep (during which you’re probably horizontal) and you spend 8 hours working at a sedentary job and then another 3 hours on the couch catching up on The Bachelorette, True Blood, Glee, or Grey’s Anatomy, you’re left with 6 waking hours in your day. Are you active enough during those 6 hours? Other studies have shown that even exercising for the recommended amount per day (minimally 30 minutes of moderate exercise) is not enough to combat the sedentary nature of our lives.

What can you do? Find ways to increase your activity throughout the day. Simply taking short breaks each hour during work to stand, stretch, and pace can be helpful. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Have walking meetings if possible. While working on a laptop, place it on a counter or table that will allow you to stand while you check email or surf the internet. Park your car a little further from the entrance to the store. Get up and move around the house during commercials of your favorite TV show… and if you DVR’d it just to skip the commercials, then watch a decent portion of your show standing up or while lifting some dumbbells in front of the TV. When you walk to the mailbox, circle around the block before going back inside. There are numerous, easy ways to increase your activity throughout the day… you just have to be creative.

And knowing your waist/hip ratio is a great health initiative too. Use the Waist-to-Hip Ratio Norms chart below to see where you fall.  To accurately measure your waist, find the narrowest part of your torso, above your belly button. For your hips, measure the area of your hips with the maximal circumference of your buttocks.  Divide the measurement for your waist by the measurement for your hips:  W/H.

Source:  American Council on Exercise. (2010). ACE Personal Trainer Manual: 4th edition (pg. 188). San Diego: Author.