Idleness and the baby boomers

Epidemiologist Loretta DiPietro of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University has worked on health for baby boomers and older people.  You would think it was obvious and that the middle-aged would be aware of it by now, but DiPietro says that being immobile for hours each day does more than raise the risk of a host of diseases. She has good evidence that, as the years wear on, it actually reduces the ability of older people to get around on foot at all.

In a study of sitting and walking ability that surveyed people ages 50 to 71 across 8 to 10 years, those who tended to sit the most and move the least had more than three times the risk of difficulty walking by the end of the study, when compared to their more active counterparts. Some ended up unable to walk at all. (The study appeared in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences).

Prolonged sitting and TV watching were particularly harmful, DiPietro found, especially when combined with low levels of total physical activity. Young bodies may rebound from prolonged sitting with an hour at the gym, she says. But that seems less true in late middle age.  “Sitting and watching TV for long periods, especially in the evening,” she says, “has got to be one of the most dangerous things that older people can do.” And the period studied — the mid-1990s to 2005, or so — was before the advent of online streaming of shows. The problem today is probably even worse now that it is possible to watch several hours without moving.”

“We now use the Internet to go shopping, order groceries, send messages, and even gossip,” DiPietro says. “We used to walk down the hall and gossip; now we send it via email or text.”
.Those who watched five or more hours of TV per day had a 65 percent greater risk of reporting a mobility disability at the study’s end, compared with those who watched less than two hours per day. DiPietro says this association was independent of their level of total physical activity and other factors known to affect the ability to easily move around.

She offers an antidote: Get up at least every 30 minutes when staring at a screen. At least stand up, march in place, jump around, kick legs — do anything to move about for at least one to two minutes.”. The result of that would be “phenomenal,” to mobility, she says, and be at least a start toward heart health, too.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, who directs cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, and represents the American College of Cardiology, says people should do even more higher intensity exercise regularly — at least to the point of being “breathless.”. Exercise, he says, is nature’s best medicine. (a precised version of a piece on NPR, reduced in length for easier consumption. Original Copyright 2017 NPR.)

My wife and I go to the gym three times a week. I normally use the treadmill to walk about 3 miles each time, and I do a number of exercises as well. I say this (hopefully) not to sound holier than the next person, but because there are usually pitifully few people my age
ever in that ,gym. Youngsters, yes, but oldies very few. They say the wheels start coming off when you reach 80. I’m surprised they don’t come off earlier.

  • Owen Bell

    Well done for attending the gym! I try to go at least once a week, and I’ve begun attending spin classes as well.
    But I think the wider problem is the way America has designed its cities. I currently live in an old town where everyone walks everywhere and using a car regularly makes little sense. But few American town are now like that. Instead, the country has become blighted by urban sprawl, where the sheer distance between amenities makes immobility the norm unless you make a concerted effort to be healthy. If people really want to be healthy Americans, I would suggest they move to the inner cities.