National Medical Director for Wellness

Dr. Thomas Van Gilder, Humana’s National Medical Director for Wellness, is passionate about helping people achieve lifelong well-being. As part of his efforts to encourage greater participation in well-being activities, he will contribute regular blog posts on health and wellness issues and share ideas and insights to lead us forward on our journey to better health. This is his second post. If you missed his first blog post, click here.

We’ve all become familiar with a growing list of things that we shouldn’t be doing if we want to live longer, healthier lives: Don’t smoke! Don’t drink and drive! Don’t overeat! And now …. don’t sit? Are our chairs a health hazard, too? What’s up with that?

Research points to far-reaching negative effects on health
A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared the mortality risks among those who sit 11 or more hours a day with those who sit for less than four hours a day. It found that adults who sit 11 or more hours a day have a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next three years, regardless of physical activity, weight, and health status. Another recent study suggests that people who have the “highest sedentary behavior” (that is, those who sit the most) have significantly increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, and premature death.

It is not entirely clear why sitting appears to increase the risk of disease and death, but the benefits of standing and moving more throughout the day are clear: more calories burned; increased energy, improved muscle health; and enhanced metabolism and lower cholesterol.

Taking action
For most of us, the longest periods of sitting occur at our jobs, making the workplace an area of focus for small changes that may make a big difference in your health – and your life.

  • Get a pedometer or an activity tracker (such as a FitBit) and use it to measure and motivate yourself
  • Take all phone calls standing up (pacing when possible)
  •  Take stretching breaks throughout the day
  •  Stop relying solely on technology: Meet face-to-face instead of texting, emailing and calling
  • Switch to a standing desk or chair that includes active sitting (such as exercise ball or Swopper)

Now that you know the risks and know how to reduce those risks, don’t just sit there. Stand for something—your health, for example!

DrVanGilder-biopic-headshotDr. Thomas Van Gilder, MD, JD, MPH, is board-certified in internal medicine and general preventive medicine and public health. He currently serves as Humana’s national medical director for wellness, providing medical direction to HumanaVitality and other Humana wellness initiatives.

He previously served as vice president and medical officer for Humana’s Wisconsin market. He has served in a number of leadership positions with other leading companies, and spent more than nine years in the U.S. Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Van Gilder obtained a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and is also an attorney specializing in intellectual property. He has written and spoken nationally and internationally on various public health and law topics, healthcare reform, primary care transformation, prevention and wellness, value-based benefit design and onsite clinics.

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