It was a sedentary lifestyle; she chose. Around her mid-60s my Mama decided that she had worked enough, and she completely stopped. She just sat down, literally. She spent long days watching TV from her recliner or sleeping in her bed.
This was not the mama I grew up with. That mama was energetic and involved, especially in our lives. She also worked outside of the home. She dressed to the nines, and she was fun to be around.
We went to the beach, on long vacations camping all across America, and to movies and museums.
She enrolled us in dance, twirling, and piano; but all three of us girls were cheerleaders born of a high school tumbling majorette.
A great cook she ran a tight household. She was so involved in my life that I rebelled big time as a teenager. I didn’t want her to have anything to say about anything in my life. By the time I left to go to college she and I were both exhausted because she held on all the tighter.
She was such an active woman she could bend backward and walk her hands down her backside until she bent into a high backbend, and then bend back up or flip back over to a standing position. I remember her doing a cartwheel off our diving board when she was in her early 60s, showing her granddaughters how it was done.
A Sedentary Lifestyle is a Choice
But suddenly her life was in her recliner, waiting on Daddy to do for her. She told us that she was pre-diabetic like it was a badge of honor. We noticed that she lived on carbs, and we fussed that she needed to watch her sugar. She said that you couldn’t get diabetes just from eating sugar.
We didn’t know because diabetes was nothing we had before in our family. We began to study it.
She was still a size medium, but she ate anything she wanted. One day in a restaurant she reached for another biscuit, and I reminded her that the carbs in that biscuit turned into sugar in her bloodstream.
Her judgment had already begun to falter. She glared at me and said she would eat anything she “damn well wanted”. The more she ate of these foods, the worse her legs got.
Being Sedentary Can Affect Your Mental Health
She began to snarl and snap at anyone who dared to question her. It not only impaired her health but her mental state and her relationships with her family members.
The more we encouraged her to keep moving the more she complained about her feet hurting and the more she sat. By the time she was 68 they cut her leg off. Though she was still a size medium and wasn’t really overweight, it still took its toll.
Daddy was an enabler. He cooked and cleaned and was the perfect nursemaid, but he was too perfect. She continued to decline. The more he did for her, the worse she got.
At the time we blamed the sugar, the smoking, the diet; but now we know that what really did her in was the inactivity. Her health continued to spiral out of control.
I read somewhere that for a person who loses a limb there is an 80% chance they will die within five years. She joined other statistics such as how every 30 seconds a limb is lost to diabetes, and at the time she joined nearly 2 million more Americans who already lost a limb.
Daddy died of pancreatic cancer while all of this was happening, and then we were the caregivers–me and my sisters. None of us were prepared. The youngest of us Linda was only 35, and I was 49. Linda had two daughters under the age of five.
We cycled through the problems for five more years after Dad died. Beating the statistics, she didn’t die within five years. She died In seven. She died because she wouldn’t allow them to cut off her other leg. We lost her when she was only 75.
Embracing a Sedentary Lifestyle Kills
In the past year, I’ve noticed numerous magazine and newspaper articles about the effects of prolonged sitting. You can read one here.
Written in 2015 it says there is evidence that “prolonged sitting is independently associated with negative health outcomes and mortality.” And it is worse for people who never exercise, and that was Mama. She wasn’t even a walker.
The article also said that “exercising one hour a day does not counteract prolonged sitting.” And that is me.
With most of us sitting more than half of our waking lives each day, it scares me to think how many more of my family may join her as a statistic. Maybe myself included, because I sit a lot writing, researching, and reading. I haven’t been in my garden for over a week. It is truly a “garden of weedin’.
But in case you thought sitting is the only culprit, read what the New York Times says about lying down. You can read it here.
It reads, “The short answer is that inactivity is the culprit, whether you are sitting or lying down.” Being sedentary kills.
Our legs and backsides use blood sugar for fuel, and in one study using physically fit young men the article said that “Within two weeks of being more sedentary, these previously healthy young men had begun to develop metabolic problems, including serious insulin resistance, whether they had spent their inactive time primarily sitting or in bed.” So it happens quicker than anyone realizes.
And the cacophony of problems caused by prolonged sitting reaches way beyond just diabetes. This diagram below found in the ‘Washington Post’ shows other problems caused by prolonged sitting such as a foggy brain, inflexible spine, tight hips, limp glutes, muscle degeneration, disc degeneration, colon cancer and much more.
You can read about the diagram here.
Being Active Can Save Your Life
For over 40 years I jumped up during commercials using the time to cook, clean, and even garden. I mention the real reason for this behavior in a post about my 40s. You can read it here.
I mentioned it in this post about my back troubles. Turns out, jumping up during commercials was good for me according to the ‘Washington Post’.
So what can we do? The articles by both AARP and the ‘Washington Post’ made suggestions such as:
- take a 1 to 3-minute break every half hour to stand and/or move around
- stand or exercise while watching television or use commercials to walk or like me to just get something done. It is amazing how long commercials are and how much you can get done.
- do cow and cat poses (Yoga). Click here for a link.
- do hip flexors 3 minutes per side each day. Click here for a link.
What happened to my Mama was heartbreaking for all her family, especially daughters and granddaughters–nine of us in all. Two of her granddaughters really never got to know her, and they will have hardly any memories of her.
I wrote about this awful story because if it prolongs one life, then it was worth it.
I also wrote it because I miss my Mama. Chuck and I travel to some pretty neat places that she would have loved. I would have taken her along, but she died way, way too young.
What do you do to keep active and avoid a sedentary lifestyle? How do you integrate movement into your daily life? Have you found ways to encourage others to join you? Please share in the comments.