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FITNESS OVER 50: For health’s sake, put down the phone!

May 20, 2019

There are many threats to our society’s health these days, but the worst one in my opinion is our addiction to screens — TV, phones and tablets. I believe they are taking the place of activity and socialization, especially in kids but also in adults.

I am certainly guilty, as most people are. Technology is a great thing. It can make life so much easier, but really it may make it more complicated because of the time we spend on our devices.

How much screen time do you spend each day? Many smartphones can tell you exactly how many hours you spend on them. Maybe you don’t want to know.

The World Health Organization recently recommended zero screen time for kids under 2, and only 1 hour a day for kids 2-4 years old. I think this is a great idea, but so hard in today’s times to follow through with.

Teenagers and adults alike are spending 6, 7, 8 or more hours each day on a computer of some type. Our screen time can be partially to blame for obesity rates, along with the prevalence of fast food.

Even if your job depends on sitting for hours on end at a computer, try to figure out a way to take breaks and get movement regularly throughout the day.

Going forward, we will always need to depend on technology in the form of a screen — but how we break it up is up to us.

If you are a parent, you can set an example of how much screen time your kids see you participating in. If you are a new parent or grandparent, you can certainly set rules about how much if any screen time your little ones have. When we were little, it was just the TV, but now it’s out of hand.

Imagine the excess weight many of us carry due to screen time inactivity. Sitting and staring at a computer is not going to make us fit or enhance our important health numbers such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar.

In our busy lives, we must schedule time to push away from our desks. If you are into the app thing, there are tons of apps to remind you to move. A few are Stand Up! the Work Break Timer, Standapp, Move, Office Exercise and Stretch, and Big Stretch Reminder. Our fitness trackers and watches can remind us, too.

Personally, I don’t need an app to remind me to move. My knees will let me know every time.

Part of my job requires me to be on a computer, but plenty of it does not, thankfully. Dr. Luke Laffin, who is a preventative cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic, says just the smallest amount of exercise can help. Part of his philosophy is not whether the impact of being even a little overweight keeps you from fitting into your favorite clothes, but what it does to your health in the long run.

How many times have you sat in front of a TV and snacked? They seem to go together. This is another issue with too much screen time. We all have this habit — perhaps without even realizing it — of eating mindlessly while watching movies or TV or scrolling through social media.

To top it off, all the ads on TV and the internet for unhealthy food don’t help at all. I don’t believe I have ever seen an ad for raw broccoli or carrot sticks. Have you?

Remember, exercise is cumulative, so even if you are extra busy as you go through your day, it can add up.

One of the most important things to help you reach your goal of being active as you age is to establish a routine. When we get out of our normal routine, our bodies don’t respond in the best ways. Kids and adults thrive on regular routines.

Create a routine that is realistic, and you can and will stick to it — even if requires getting up earlier. Try to remember how good it feels when you are active, and when you reach your goals.

We seem to make time for our precious screens. So make sure you make time for your precious health. Get moving!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.

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