The evils of sitting have been well documented in recent years. It’s been associated with everything from increased cancer risk to shorter life expectancy, and it’s costing Americans an arm and a leg — and a back. At least $50 billion is spent each year to treat lower back pain, the fall issue of NYU Physician says. “Lumbar spine issues are starting to explode as people sit in a chair all day,” physician Wayne Stokes told the magazine. “We try to get across the idea that if the body doesn’t move, it’s not going to work.”
According to the magazine, chronic back pain isn’t caused so much by acute injury as by muscles that have become weak or imbalanced from disuse. For example, an MRI scan might show a herniated disk, but the source of the pain may be in the joints around the spine or pelvis. This makes back pain difficult to diagnose and treat. “It’s possible to do the wrong exercises and make things worse,” says Stokes. He and other doctors are pursuing more holistic treatment regimens that combine medical interventions with lifestyle changes: strengthening exercises for the core and lower back, massage, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory meds and injections. And above all, we need to get up, stand up.
“Setting an alarm to go off every 20 to 30 minutes is a good reminder to stand up,” says Stokes. “Even 15 seconds of standing helps break the seated cycle.”
Heart disease. Diabetes. Prostate cancer. Every man is susceptible, but according to the current issue of Men’s Health, these and other ailments are killing American men faster than guys from other countries. The magazine reports on a paper in the journal Health Policy that found that about 150,000 men in the United States die prematurely from preventable causes every year — a higher rate than in 15 other developed countries.
The magazine recommends looking to other countries for healthful habits. Italians, who have a lower risk of fatal heart attack than American men, demonstrate the importance of heart-healthy eating — including olive oil and moderate amounts of red wine — and of smoking less than before. Swiss men are more likely to walk or bike to work, activity that may contribute to their lower incidence of diabetes, the magazine said. In Japan, drinking green tea has been shown to help men fight prostate cancer.
The common thread in all these countries is that their men take an active interest in their health, according to the magazine. You’ve heard it before, but cleaning up your diet, quitting smoking and walking more could help move things in the right direction. And a cup of green tea can’t hurt.