Why keeping your body in motion can help save your life — so you can save others

By J. D.

A new study has found that keeping your body in motion is key to keeping your heart beating for a long, long time, so you can continue to do all of that hero stuff you do so well. 

Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast and Ulster University found there is a link between sitting or lounging around for hours on end and 70,000 deaths per year in the United Kingdom. 

The scientists noted that the sedentary lifestyle is just becoming more and more common these days, as technology makes many jobs much easier and far less labor intensive. But in this case, that’s not good for our bodies.

Researcher compiled and cross-referenced data from several previous studies about the overall impact of sedentary lifestyles on five health conditions: Cardiovascular disease, type-two diabetes, colon cancer, lung cancer, and endometrial cancer. 

Using the Health Survey for England in 2012, they found that 30 percent of English adults spend at least six hours daily just sitting around. On weekends, that rises to 37 percent of adults spending six hours or more lounging and sitting.

Based on the data, researchers said that such sedentary lifestyles led to 11.6 percent of all UK deaths in 2016; further, they determined, using data, that 69,276 deaths could have been avoided the same year if only people were more active.

“Many individuals in the UK spend their leisure time in sedentary behavior, and the workplace represents a significant proportion of unavoidable daily sitting time for many people,” said Lead Investigator Leonie Heron of the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

Okay, so we’ve known for some time that leading a sedentary lifestyle can have negative effects on your health. In fact, as far back as 2004 researchers from the University of Hong Kong determined that excessive sitting and lounging was more dangerous for your health than smoking. 

Ten years later, in 2016, researchers were able to duplicate that initial study with subsequent research that concluded “physical inactivity is as important a modifiable risk factor for chronic diseases as obesity and tobacco.”

What does that mean for you? Well, there are a lot things we still do sitting down — paperwork, schoolwork, studying/academia, writing reports, etc. We’re also a gadget society; we love to play games on our TVs, smartphones, and other devices.

On our days off, are we really getting the kind of physical activity necessary to ward off these chronic diseases? And is that physical activity specifically tailored to the physical demands of police work, firefighting, EMS, and military life?

Not only will activity — typical exercise, bike-riding, walking/running/hiking — decrease your risk of dying early, but adding a functional fitness regimen that includes high-intensity, strength-building, and endurance workouts will go a long way towards preparing you for the physical rigors demanded of us by our citizens. 

So get up and get after it — and save your own life in the process. 

J. D. Dougherty, a former paramedic, firefighter, and 15-year military veteran of OEF, is co-founder of Survival Legion, a vet-owned company that stresses functional fitness and draws it’s uniqueness from the Roman Legions.

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