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Johnson County

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Johnson County
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Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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Breaking the Sitting Habit

Return to Heath and Nutrition Agent Articles

Are you guilty of sitting too much? Researchers claim that sitting can be just as bad for your health as smoking. But K-State Research and Extension just might have the intervention that will help you quit.

Studies show that it doesn't matter how active you are, if you sit for more than an hour at a time, you are jeopardizing your health and affecting your longevity. This is not good news for our society because we sit — a lot. But our bodies aren't designed for sitting. They're designed for standing and moving. Yet over 90% of our activities (working, driving, technology, eating, watching television) encourage us to sit for hours on end, and most of us spend about 80% of our waking hours sitting. This is bad because the body will adjust itself to support whatever activity you perform the most, and if 80% of our activities are sedentary then the body will conform to that position. And when the body's mass is being supported by a chair instead of being challenged by gravity, it will lose flexibility and strength, and this of course leads to physical ailments and disease because we just simply weren't designed to be sedentary. It's no wonder we have such horrible health statistics. Many Americans will blame this on the need to sit to do work at their "desk job." But even folks who've retired will often get into routines that are even more sedentary than their previous jobs.    

Simply standing more (for 15 minutes within each hour) can interrupt this negative trend. But I think the bigger issue is inertia. Remember that concept from junior high science class? Inertia says an object in motion tends to stay in motion while an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And the only way to get an object to go from rest to motion is by some interrupting force. This is where Extension's intervention comes in; keep reading.

Have you noticed that while it's really hard to develop a certain habit, once you have that habit it's even harder to break it? That's inertia working. I've noticed this in my own observations of active and inactive individuals. People who are inactive have no trouble being inactive for long stretches of time. But if you spend time with an active person, being still for too long is almost painful for them. I've been in meetings where folks, after an hour or so, have to stand because they've been sitting too long. This is inertia. And it's also why it's so hard for folks to go from being inactive to active. They need an interrupting force to get them going. It's not easy. It takes more effort to get going then it does to maintain the “go”, and getting started is the hardest part.

If you're looking for that force to get you going, consider joining the Walk KS program. This is an 8-week program that challenges you to move more, sit less and make better nutrition choices.  

How does it work?

Gather 6 people (including yourself) who will motivate and encourage each other, and decide who will serve as captain.  Anyone can participate: friends, family, children, neighbors, co-workers.

Once you have your team, you'll need to pick a team name and choose one of the three Walk KS challenges:

  1. Challenge 1 - 8 Wonders Each person reaches the minimum goal for physical activity -- 150 minutes per week. Collectively, the team would walk 435 miles as they discover the 8 Wonders of Kansas!Walk across Kansas and then walk back
  2. Challenge 2 - Cross Country A winding trail from Troy to Elkhart, requiring each person to log 4 hours per week, traveling 764 miles total.
  3. Challenge 3 - Little Balkans to Nicodemus Walk the SE part of the state known as the Little Balkans and then wind up and around to Nicodemus. This team will go 1200 miles and require each person to log 6 hours per week.

Now the team wouldn't actually WALK across or around the state. The way it works is each 15 minutes spent participating in physical activity translates in this program to 1 mile. Walking isn’t the only activity that counts. Biking, swimming and even gardening or housework count as physical activity. Each member of the team keeps track of the minutes they spend being physically active then reports it to their chosen team captain. In addition to recording their physical activity, participants will also record their daily fruit and vegetable consumption and report that to the captain as well. On the website, you’ll be able to see each team’s progress and fruit and vegetable intakes. This usually inspires some healthy competition between the different teams all over the county.

Last year, over 1,000 county residents participated in Walk KS and almost every team completed their chosen challenge.

To register your team, and for more information about Walk KS, click here. The cost to participate is only $8/person, and participants can also purchase t-shirts or hoodies to inspire team spirit. In addition, participants will also receive a weekly newsletter with physical activity and health tips, healthy eating information, and a tasty recipe.

The program officially starts Sunday, March 18, so hurry to your chair and computer to register once you've gathered your team. Just make sure you stand up afterwards.

Contact Us

Crystal Futrell
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent