That’s the evidence of 22 studies gathering information on the 60+age range. I find this a frighteneing statistic. (BJGP Oct 2017) What must all that inactivity be doing to the body?

There is evidence to suggest that prolonged sedentary behaviour has adverse effects on physical capability, grip strength, quality of life, mental health and cognitive performance.

There are also associated links with cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What strategies can we use to change this?

  • Set behavioural goals
  • Use self monitoring devices
  • Get social support
  • Change your environment

Setting behavioural goals is about making action plans not outcome plans. Let me explain. An outcome plan could be “ I want to feel fit enough to go swimming again” Great idea!

The start of the action plan is “today i’m going to walk to the nearest lamppost once in the morning and once in the afternoon”. I’m going to do that again every day for one week and then i’m going to walk to the second lamppost twice a day. So write down your goal, work out when you want to achieve it by and build a series of harder behavioural changes that steadily increase your activity and do them. There’s plenty of advice online about goal setting and training plans. If you look at them they’ll give you the idea of setting behavioural goals.

Self monitoring devices don’t have to be complicated. You wear them like a wrist watch and the simplest ones counts your steps each day. They feed this information to a computer and the info and progress is there for you to read. If you don’t use a computer, or a smartphone don’t worry you can still get a clip on pedometer from Amazon.

I like using my Fitbit because I can look at my wrist through the day and see how I’m doing. I especially like the feeling of knowing it’s only lunchtime and I’ve already done more than half my goal, currently 10,000 steps.

Getting social support can be as straightforward as spending more time with others. Mixing with other people can lift your mood; it’s always more fun than staring at the goggle box. The interaction is vital to your human needs. Take up a new activity, give something different a go, have a change of scene.

Changing your environment does sound as though this involves spending money, however, it can be about how you use your current surroundings.

Years ago I worked to help a lady with endless back pain. She couldn’t get out of the house for pain and lack of mobility. I met with her at her house and in addition to other medical discussions asked her to explain her daily routine to me. It consisted of getting up and then collapsing on the sofa in the same seat, every day, all day apart from meals, pee breaks and bedtime. I explained the damage this was doing and we set up a “hot chair” behavioural change game. She was not allowed to return to the chair she rose from until she had sat in at least 4 other styles of chair! Very soon she was not only moving about the house but out shopping in the local supermarket and had a marked reduction in pain.

Above all you need to be motivated to change your current sedentary habits. Think of the positive results you can gain. Maybe moving more will enable you to climb the steps that prevent you from staying with your family and seeing your grandchildren? Or enable you to go on a bus trip? To step outside your home because your mental health is stronger? Only you can know what motivates you!

Leave a Comment