Sitting disease may sound like a made-up condition but it's a real health threat to RVers.
If you're like me and the pounds have been hard to get off lately, you may have sitting disease.
Yes, there really is such a disease. And it's reached epidemic proportions, linked to all sorts of other ailments, the first and foremost of which is obesity.
Blame it on our sedentary lifestyle. Our desk-bound working days. Our computer and Internet use. TV watching.
But the fact is, the average American these days sits – at a desk, in the car or RV or on a couch – nearly eight hours every day. Sitting. Planted. Not moving.
A thick and growing-thicker-by-the-day body of medical research is documenting terrible health effects from all this.
I am always at the computer, blogging, updating social media, writing and answering emails. Then add to this all the time I spend driving my RV around the country and I know I need to take this disease seriously.
How Sitting Disease Affects Your Health
You still may be laughing at the term “sitting disease.” Don't. No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic talks about it.
The experts are seriously concerned about the problem. That's because when you sit for long periods of time – over four hours – your body literally starts to shut down at the metabolic level, according to Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri.
It gets worse. When muscles—especially the big ones meant for movement, like those in your legs—are immobile, your circulation slows and you burn fewer calories.
That would be cause enough to gain weight.
Fat-Burning Enzymes Turn Off
But as it turns out, sitting so long and so much does even more to those trying to lose weight and get in shape.
Key fat-burning enzymes responsible for breaking down triglycerides (a type of fat) simply start switching off. Sit for a full day and those fat burners plummet by 50 percent, says James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot.
Increased Chance of Diabetes
It gets even worse. The more you sit, the less blood sugar your body uses, meaning those sugars store as fat. Medical research shows that for every two hours spent sitting per day, your chance of getting diabetes goes up by 7 percent.
Do you enjoy your Small House and BIG Yard RV Lifestyle experience? Maybe you need a t-shirt or hoodie to tell the world. This saying is a favorite in our community. Don't need a hoodie? We have mugs. 🙂
Increased Chance of Heart Disease
Your risk for heart disease goes up, too, because enzymes that keep blood fats in check are inactive.
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” says Martha Grogan, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic. Sitting for four or more hours a day has about the same adverse effect on your health as smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes every day.
More Prone to Depression
You're also more prone to depression because, with less blood flow, mood-enhancing hormones are not getting to your brain.
Exercise is Less Effective
Sitting disease even blunts the good effects of exercise. “We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting,” says another researcher, Genevieve Healy, Ph.D.
How to Prevent or Counteract Sitting Disease
The great news is that a little movement goes a long way. Those same studies show that just short little two-minute standing breaks can counteract the effects of sitting in dramatic ways.
Standing every hour, moving around a bit, stretching, working standing up, walking around is an excellent place to start.
The key is to create some kind of habit that is easy for you to maintain…
Some people use stand-up desks. Some people stand during tv commercials. Some people commit to walking their dogs more.
Whatever it is that can get you up more, do it! I even know someone who only carries one grocery bag in at a time. That's a simple solution for a big problem!
Tips for RVers
Whether it's driving long hours or plopping ourselves in our lawn chairs, it's just as easy to sit too much on vacation than it is at home. It can even be argued that it's easier! After all, we're supposed to be relaxing, right?
Try to adopt the mindset that vacationing or the RV Lifestyle is about more than just relaxing. It's about exploring, adventuring, finding new places, and trying new things. It's about getting away from the desk and the couch and running into the big, wide world.
So, for RVers, here are a few ideas to get you started and help you avoid sitting disease on the road:
- Stop driving every 1.5-2 hours to strectch your legs
- Invest in good walking shoes so it's more enjoyable
- Take your dog with you on a trip
- Set screen time limits
- Get a step-counter app or device and set a daily step goal
So, as far as sitting disease goes, I'm going to stand for it. Throughout the day. I'll let you know how it goes. And for the record, I'm standing now as I type this.
More Great Travel Health Information
We have lots of great articles and podcasts on healthy living on the road. I highly suggest you check out some or all of the following:
- 1 Undeniable Health Danger! When the RV Lifestyle is TOO MUCH of a Vacation (Podcast)
- 18 Special Health Apps to Consider Adding Before Getting Back on the Road
- The Importance of Staying Healthy While RVing
Looking for more Expert RV Trip ideas and RV Travel suggestions?
We've written a library of RV Travel books that lay out seven-day guided explorations of scenic areas of the US that we'’ve explored and think would make an excellent RV trip for you.
In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.
You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.
Planning an RV trip can be very time-consuming so that’s why we’ve done the research for you! Just take our guides and use them, we’re sure you’ll have an RV trip for the ages! Instant download. CLICK HERE for information on our RV Travel Guides