Try to stay ac­tive, even in front of a screen

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Robert Ash­ley Ask the Doc­tors

Wel­come to the sec­ond day of our new “Ask the Doc­tors” col­umn. As an in­ternist and pri­mary care physi­cian at UCLA Health, my ap­proach to medicine is to un­der­stand that I don’t have all the an­swers — that I have to learn new top­ics and re­view old top­ics all the time.

Some­times, I can provide an­swers right away. But some­times, I have to stop and re­assess. Medicine has seen many break­throughs since I grad­u­ated from med­i­cal school nearly 20 years ago, and ev­i­dence has changed many dog­matic ways of prac­tice.

Ob­jec­tive, non-bi­ased data are im­por­tant to the prac­tice of medicine. Doc­tors must un­der­stand how that data can be ap­plied to one per­son or to large groups of peo­ple.

You met my col­leagues Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. El­iz­a­beth Ko yes­ter­day and learned about their ap­proach to health and well­ness. My col­umn fo­cuses on com­mon­sense an­swers based upon sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture. As I in­crease my pro­fes­sional knowl­edge, I hope to provide peo­ple with thought­ful and de­lib­er­ate in­ter­pre­ta­tions of med­i­cal sci­ence that peo­ple can use to di­rect their own health.

Dear Doc­tor: My job re­quires me to sit in front of a com­puter for at least eight hours a day. When I come home, I usu­ally watch tele­vi­sion for a few hours be­fore go­ing to bed. Is be­ing so seden­tary bad for me?

Dear Reader >> Unequiv­o­cally, yes. Many stud­ies of many types have found in­creased death rates among peo­ple who sit for pro­longed pe­ri­ods. The big­gest prob­lem is be­ing seden­tary in front of a tele­vi­sion. The av­er­age Amer­i­can watches more than four hours of tele­vi­sion per day. Some stud­ies have found that for every ad­di­tional two hours in front of the tele­vi­sion, the risk of di­a­betes in­creases 14 to 20 per­cent.

Here’s why: Sit­ting for pro­longed pe­ri­ods de­creases in­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity, mean­ing your blood sugar rises. Add to that the types of sug­ary foods that are of­ten eaten while watch­ing tele­vi­sion, and you have the cre­ation of a se­ri­ous health prob­lem. If you’re seden­tary through­out the day, ex­er­cise can help ease the neg­a­tive im­pact, but not com­pletely make up for it.

So for starters, watch less tele­vi­sion or, if you do watch tele­vi­sion, put an ex­er­cise bike in front of the screen. Sec­ond, if you have a job in which you sit for long pe­ri­ods, take three-minute breaks every 30 min­utes to stretch and walk around a lit­tle. Every lit­tle bit of ac­tiv­ity helps.

Robert Ash­ley, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les.

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