Are You Still Sitting?

By Carlos M. Cervantes, Ph.D., CAPE

Have you wondered how much time you spend sitting? Or, what (if any) may be the consequences of sitting for prolonged periods of time in front of the TV, computer, cell phone or video game? Well, you may be, like many people in the United States, unaware of the “sitting disease.”

Unlike many other illnesses, sitting disease is not spread by a mosquito bite or by someone sneezing. It is a condition we develop…a behavior…our choice. Sitting disease is defined as the detrimental health effects caused by excessive sitting throughout most days of the week. Some have said that sitting disease is a 21st century chronic disease (Hoeger & Hoeger, 2013).

We live in toxic environments in terms of not encouraging people to move. For example, we go to the shopping mall, and we take the escalator rather than the stairs; we walk into a building and use the elevator; we watch TV and use the remote; we use the drive-through rather than walking-in to a restaurant or use the car rather than walk or bike to the store. Our living arrangements (that is, housing communities) are set to discourage people from walking or moving. We have more dog parks in our neighborhoods than places for people to be active.

The fact is that we have a challenge ahead of us: to move, to find the time to simply stand up and move. It is not about starting a vigorous exercise program today (which is not a bad idea!) but simply taking one step at a time. Start by walking around the block, or walking your dog or getting a group of friends and walking around the HT campus…just move. The human body was designed to move, not to sit – some activity is better than no activity at all.

African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at greater risk for chronic disease related to obesity and physical inactivity (known as hypokinetic conditions) such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS, 2010) indicates that the prevalence of obesity for adults in Texas is 32.2%. Furthermore in Texas, African American adults have obesity prevalence of 41.1% while Hispanics have 40.3% compared to White Americans (28.2%).

What about physical activity? Not much good news. In Texas, the prevalence of adults reporting inadequate physical activity (that is not moving enough for health benefits) is 51.9%. For Hispanic adults in Texas, 57% have reported inadequate physical activity while 54.6% of African American adults in Texas are not physically active enough (Texas Department of State Health Services).

Why is any of this important? Obesity and physical inactivity are two of the big five risk factors for chronic disease. Most importantly, they are preventable. It would not be irrational to suggest that with the higher prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity in our communities (if we think in terms of life expectancy and medical care cost) we African Americans and Hispanics may end up living shorter lives and paying more for medical care. Thus, a simple lifestyle change such as moving more and sitting less (coupled with proper nutrition) can have a significant positive effect on our lives and pockets!

Often we hear preachers, pastors, reverends and priests talk about how long many people in the Bible lived – for example, Genesis 9:29 indicates that Noah lived for 950 years and Abraham lived for 175 years (Genesis 25:7). Although they both lived in different times, there were few things in common: no cars, no fast food restaurants and not much sitting but plenty of moving…walking in search of the “Promised Land”…moving to live! We may not live that long today but we can have longer, healthier and more productive lifestyles with a simple choice: stand up and move!

For more information on sitting disease and the national health promotion initiative “just stand”readers are encourage to visit For tips on how to get moving, please visit


By Carlos M. Cervantes, Ph.D., CAPE, is Chair of the Huston-Tillotson University Department of Kinesiology.

I would like to thank Dr. Katherine Oldmixon, Ms. Becky Kangas and Reverend Donald Brewington for their thoughtful comments on an early version of this article.

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Exercise May Not Help Black Teen Girls Fight Obesity

What do you think?

(CBS News) High amounts of exercise may not help black girls may not stave off obesity as well as their white counterparts.

Recent research, published in the June 2012 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, revealed that black girls who were active at 12 years old were almost just as likely to be obese at the time they reached 14 as African American girls who didn’t exercise that much.

In 2010, black women were 70 percent more likely to be obese than white women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. The number increases for teens: Black girls were 80 percent more likely to be obese than white girls from 2007 to 2010. As a whole, four out of five black women are overweight or obese, and African Americans were 70 percent less likely to exercise than white people in 2010.

“Our results suggest that prompting adolescent girls to be active may be important to preventing obesity but that using different approaches (e.g. emphasizing reductions in energy intake) may be necessary to prevent obesity in black girls,” Dr. James White of Cardiff University in Cardiff, England and Dr. Russell Jago of the University of Bristol in Bristol, England wrote in the study.

For the study, researchers followed 1148 adolescent girls (538 black and 610 white) between the ages of 12 and 14. Their level of physical activity was recorded using an accelerometer and their food intake was recorded in three-day periods. The amount of time spent sitting and watching TV was also taken into account. The subjects’ body fat was measured by using Body Mass Index (BMI), and percentage body fat was measured using calipers.

The black girls in the group with the most physical activity were only 15 percent less likely to be obese by age 14 than the group with the lowest levels of exercise. When it game to white girls, the active group was 85 percent less likely to have weight problems.

“It creates yet another barrier to what might already feel like a struggle,” Ginny Ehrlich, chief executive of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, said to the Los Angeles Times. “When we talk with young people, we talk about healthy living — eating better and moving more. We’re trying to stay away from messaging around obesity.”

Toni Carey, who founded the national running group Black Girls Run!, told the Los Angeles Times that getting African American girls to exercise was already an uphill battle. When she began running her mother told her, “That’s something that black people don’t do” – and mentioned that her uterus was going to fall out and other myths. Carey also said that diets are often unhealthy because single-parent homes often turn to cheap fast food to feed their families and family cooking normally includes less healthy dishes.

She explained, “If you aren’t seeing your peers out there running and exercising, or you hear them say, ‘I don’t want to mess up my hair,’ it’s more than likely you’re not going to engage in that physical activity.”

Alison Field, who studies weight in adolescents and women at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston and was not involved in the study, suggested to Reuters that the study results may show that the typical recommendation of more exercise may not be ideal for African American girls. It might mean that diet and other lifestyle changes need to be made to help maintain weight.

“I think everyone would agree we need people to be active,” Field said. “It’s not sufficient on its own to prevent weight gain, but it’s really an important part of the equation.”

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Did you know that a college degree affects your health status?

The College Board reported that:

  • College graduates ages 25 to 44 are 14 percent less likely to be obese than high school grads.
  • Adults ages 25 to 34 with a college degree are nearly twice as likely to exercise vigorously.
  • Smoking among those with a bachelor’s degree is 9 percent. High school grads: 27 percent.
  • 68 percent of college-educated parents read to their kids daily in 2007 – over 20 percent more than high school grads.
  • The percentage of people with college degrees who donate their time to community organizations is higher than other groups.

Do you find this information to be true?Image

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What are you changing in your life that makes you healthier?

Have you changed something in your life that is making or has made you healthier?  Have you lost weight?  Have you changed your diet?  Are you eating healthier foods?  Have you integrated exercise in your daily life?  Are you overcoming a disease or illness?  We look forward to hearing the faculty, staff, and student stories.

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HT Wobble
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