I’m Denise Blaha and I work at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. UNH provides us with this platform to talk about our research and outreach efforts and I thought I’d talk about mine. Although it’s not related to my work here at UNH, I think I’m developing an interesting way to address a recognized public health epidemic.
Most of us are now aware that excessive sitting has many adverse impacts on our health. Dubbed “the new smoking”, sitting too much has been pegged to a slew of diseases and chronic illnesses, from heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and several forms of cancer, to depression, joint ailments, and even Alzheimers and dementia. Nothing good comes from staying plunked in a chair.
Public health campaigns around this issue are focused on alerting people to the adverse consequences of sitting too much. But does information really change behavior? And does the fear of getting a horrible disease 10 or 20 years from now motivate people to exercise and sit less now? Not according to the research of behavioral psychologist Michelle Segar at the University of Michigan. Dr. Segar has spent decades studying what motivates people to exercise and her findings are pretty clear. People are more likely to become active and remain active if they experience short term benefits from that activity such as feeling better, having less joint pain, feeling happier, and more energetic. Avoiding diseases may indeed be a factor, but it's not the principal driver that triggers most people to move more.
Recognizing this and through a confluence of other factors, I launched the website, Quitting the Sitting, in 2015. Quitting the Sitting's goal is to inspire people to be more active by sharing the stories of previously sedentary people who have ditched the chair. Their motivation may vary, but the outcome is always the same. Active people feel better, have less pain, more energy, greater self-confidence, and most importantly, they tell us that they are happier than they were when they lived their life mostly in a chair.
I am also interested in habits and neuroplasticity and have read extensively and taken courses on these subjects. The science of how habits are created and can be retooled in our brains to be productive assets in our lives has been well documented in the last 20 years. We now know how to create new habits and how to change them to work better for us. Since sitting is essentially a habit, much of my outreach is centered on helping people develop new sit-less habits. I've created a 3 week online program called Sit Less Boot Camp that has helped over 1000 people in over 20 countries make sitting less and moving more a natural part of their lives. You can read more about it here.
I'm very interested in connecting with other people at UNH interested in sedentary behavior research, habits, or health and wellness promotion. Please contact me and let's go for a walk and talk about collaborating!
1. Through our Life in Motion and Movers and Shakers series, we share the stories of those who have chosen an active lifestyle. New stories are added frequently, so check back often.
2. Each May and October, we co-host Sit Less Boot Camp™ on the health and fitness social network, My Fitness Pal. This 21-day challenge helps participants find and implement workable ways they can sit less and move more in their daily lives. Sit Less Boot Camp is free and open to everyone, but you have to be a member of My Fitness Pal to participate (it's free to join).
3. We are active on both Facebook and Twitter. New posts are added several times a week. No spam, just regular updates, helpful tips, and motivational quotes to inspire greater movement. Through social media, we collaborate with and support the efforts of other organizations that are similarly focused on helping people sit less and move more.