The health dangers of sitting for the Suncoast seniors

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SARASOTA, Fla. --  Have a seat, but before you do, you better think about how much time you want to spend in that position. Several studies find sitting for prolonged periods of time may contribute to number of health problems including risk of early death.

Too much sitting raises the risk of heart failure and diabetes, now studies find links between hours spent sitting and an increased risk for colon and endometrial cancers.

“I think the problem with sitting too much as you age is that you lose your ability to move.” As we get older, normal activities become more challenging, says Kathleen Houseweart of the Geriatrics Department and Memory Disorder Clinic at Sarasota memorial Hospital. “One of the biggest things that you need to do to maintain your independence is to be able to get out of a chair. If you can’t get out of a chair, you're not going to be able to live independently.”

Sitting too long can lead to bad health habits, says Houseweart, including less aerobic health and being overweight. “You can have heart disease, and certainly sitting too long can affect your cognitive ability.”

But there are a number of seniors that choose to move, rather than sit, says Sarasota Y wellness coordinator Diane Adams. “I'm sure we see 150 to 200 on a given day.”

Being active, she says, has tremendous health benefits. “It's important for them to get moving for their circulation. It will improve their circulation tremendously.”

Sitting too long can weaken muscles, which leads to other problems. “People that sit have a tendency to sit very rounded, so this will allow them to have full posture, this will allow them to have stronger legs and a stronger body, and most importantly, a stronger heart. So the bottom line is, if you spend a lot of time in this position, you may be in trouble.”

Rather than sit around after a concussion and cast resulting from a bad fall years ago, Registered Nurse Barbara Smith started taking Tai Chi. “And I knew my balance was off and I had some weakness in my right leg; so it's built me up, my right leg is stronger, and my balance is much better.”

She added other fitness modalities to her routine, and hasn’t stopped since. “Treadmill, walk on the track, there's a rowing machine over there, I do water aerobics.”

Being active and not sitting around keeps you younger, says Adams, who teaches classes ranging from yoga to spin, and at age 66, she is proof positive. “I want to keep myself vital, active, and I intend to be doing this when I'm still 90 and 95.”