Wednesday May 22, 2019

Americans Becoming More Desk-Bound, Spending Almost Third of their Waking Hours Sitting: Study

By 2016, at least half of American kids and adults spent an hour or more of leisure time daily using computers

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FILE - A worker sits a computer at the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Va., Aug. 22, 2018. VOA

Americans are becoming increasingly sedentary, spending almost a third of their waking hours sitting down, and computer use is partly to blame, a new study found.

Over almost a decade, average daily sitting time increased by roughly an hour, to about eight hours for U.S. teens and almost 6 1/2 hours for adults, according to the researchers. That includes school and work hours, but leisure-time computer use among all ages increased too.

By 2016, at least half of American kids and adults spent an hour or more of leisure time daily using computers. The biggest increase was among the oldest adults: 15 percent of retirement-aged adults reported using computers that often in 2003-04, soaring to more than half in 2015-16.

Most Americans of all ages watched TV or videos for at least two hours daily and that was mostly unchanged throughout the study, ranging from about 60 percent of kids aged 5 to 11, up to 84 percent of seniors.

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Over almost a decade, average daily sitting time increased by roughly an hour, to about eight hours for U.S. teens and almost 6 1/2 hours for adults, according to the researchers. Pixabay

“Everything we found is concerning,” said lead author Yin Cao, a researcher at Washington University’s medical school in St. Louis. “The overall message is prolonged sitting is highly prevalent,” despite prominent health warnings about the dangers of being too sedentary.

The researchers analyzed U.S. government health surveys from almost 52,000 Americans, starting at age 5, from 2001-2016. Total sitting time was assessed for teens and adults starting in 2007. The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Studies have shown that prolonged periods of sitting can increase risks for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. U.S. activity guidelines released last fall say adults need at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week, things like brisk walking, jogging, biking or tennis. Muscle strengthening two days weekly is also advised. Immediate benefits include reduced blood pressure and anxiety and better sleep. Long-term benefits include improved brain health and lower risks for falls.

Kids aged 6 through 17 need 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Regular activity is even recommended for kids as young as 3. But only about 1 in 4 U.S. adults and 1 in 5 teens get recommended amounts. College student Daisy Lawing spends a lot of time sitting, but says she doesn’t have much choice. Classes and homework on the computer take up much of her day.

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Kids aged 6 through 17 need 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Regular activity is even recommended for kids as young as 3. But only about 1 in 4 U.S. adults and 1 in 5 teens get recommended amounts. Pixabay

“I always feel bad” about being inactive, she said Tuesday at an Asheville, North Carolina, cafe, explaining that she did a school paper about the benefits of physical activity. “I try to walk a lot, try to work out twice a week. But sometimes I can’t because I’m too busy with school,” Lawing, 21, a junior at Appalachian State University in Boone.

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Peter T. Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said people who sit all day need to do more than the minimum recommended amount of physical activity to counteract the harms of being sedentary.

“We’ve just got to really work on the population to get the message out there. Physical activity is good for everyone,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

The American Tradition of Marrying Cousins

Alexander Graham Bell, best known for inventing the telephone, also waded into the debate. He suggested introducing legislation to ban consanguineous marriages in families with deaf-mute members so that the condition would not be inherited by children of such marriages.

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The legality of cousin marriage in the United States varies from state to state. The practice is illegal in 25 states. A first cousin is the child of either parent's brother or sister. Pixabay

What do famous Americans such as author Edgar Allan Poe, Wild West outlaw Jesse James and theoretical physicist Albert Einstein have in common?

They all reportedly married their first cousins.

The legality of cousin marriage in the United States varies from state to state. The practice is illegal in 25 states. A first cousin is the child of either parent’s brother or sister.

In some societies around the world, marrying a first cousin is often preferable, not only to keep property or money within the family, but in some cases to keep a “good catch” from going off with a stranger.

But the practice is generally viewed as taboo in the United States.

Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, his first cousin, arrive in the port of San Diego, California, December 30, 1930.
Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, his first cousin, arrive in the port of San Diego, California, December 30, 1930. VOA

Opposition to first-cousin marriage in the U.S. dates back to the Puritans, among the earliest European settlers in America, who opposed such unions as far back as the 17th century, according to the book “Consanguinity in Context” by medical geneticist Alan Bittles.

Marriages are considered “consanguineous” when couples are either second cousins or more closely related.

The first actual laws against first-cousin marriage appeared during the Civil War era, with Kansas banning the practice in 1858, followed by Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wyoming in the 1860s.

While first-cousin marriages were once favored by the upper classes in the U.S., such alliances declined sharply in the mid-to-late 19th century, possibly because advances in transportation and communication offered perspective brides and grooms greater access to a wider pool of marital prospects.

The gravesite of infamous Wild West outlaw Jesse James and his wife, Zerelda, the first cousin he married after a 9-year courtship, at a cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.
The gravesite of infamous Wild West outlaw Jesse James and his wife, Zerelda, the first cousin he married after a 9-year courtship, at a cemetery in Kearney, Missouri. VOA

Also, as families grew smaller, so did the number of marriageable cousins. And women became more independent during that period, so their marital options increased.

One of the earliest people to influence American public opinion on the issue was the Rev. Charles Brooks of Massachusetts. Brooks delivered a paper at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1855 that asserted first-cousin marriage led to birth defects among the children of such unions.

Alexander Graham Bell, best known for inventing the telephone, also waded into the debate. He suggested introducing legislation to ban consanguineous marriages in families with deaf-mute members so that the condition would not be inherited by children of such marriages.

A seven-year Columbia University study published in 2018 found that children whose parents are first cousins have a 4% to 7% probability of birth defects, compared with 3% to 4% when the parents are distant relatives who marry.

From 1650 to 1850, the average person was fourth cousins with their spouse, according to the study. By 1950, the average person was married to their seventh cousin. The researchers believe that today, many couples are 10th to 12th cousins.

First Cousin Marriage Laws in the United States
First Cousin Marriage Laws in the United States. VOA

The data on consanguineous marriage in the U.S. is “scant and incomplete,” according to Bittles. CousinCouples.com, a website for people who are romantically involved with their cousin, estimates that about one out of every 1,000 U.S. marriages is between first cousins.

However, Bittles finds that number to be unrealistically low.

“The recent large-scale migration to the USA of couples from countries where consanguineous marriage is traditional may not reveal their premarital relationship,” he told VOA via email. “In terms of numbers, this particularly applies to immigrants from Arab countries … where 20-plus percent of marriages are consanguineous, and South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan where more than 50% of marriages may be consanguineous.”

Some states allow first-cousin marriages only if the couple can’t have children because they are too old or one of the parties is found to be infertile.

Founding father John Adams, second president of the United States, married to his third cousin, Abigail, and they had six children.
Founding father John Adams, second president of the United States, married to his third cousin, Abigail, and they had six children. VOA

When you look past first cousins, there are a number of prominent Americans who married more distant cousins. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both said “I do” to their third cousins. President Franklin Roosevelt was married to his fifth cousin, once removed. And the first wife of Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and President Donald Trump’s lawyer, was his second cousin once removed.

Worldwide, only a handful of countries prohibit first cousin marriages.

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“Besides the USA, they comprise the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Philippines,” Bittles says. “Even in the People’s Republic of China, the ban on first-cousin marriages is not enforced in officially recognized ethnic minorities where consanguineous marriage has been traditional.”

Bittles expects the number of cousin marriages in the U.S. to diminish over time as family sizes decline and there are fewer cousins available to marry, and as the children of migrants internalize negative mainstream U.S. views on marrying your cousin. (VOA)