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My wife Penny’s trainer quipped to her the other day that “sitting is the new smoking.” According to new research out of Northwestern University, that comment was spot on.

From 2002 to 2005, scientists at Northwestern took 2,000 seniors and fitted them with accelerometers. Pedometers, most of you know, measure how many steps you take per day; the goal should be 10,000.

The device this research used measured how much people sat around, hardly moving at all. This included time in front of the computer, watching TV, eating, etc. – all the stuff where we don’t move our muscles.

What they found surprised them, because the data was so strong. It seems that every hour spent sitting increases your risk of becoming disabled.

Now, you might say, “Wait a minute. Aren’t you really measuring exercise here?” The answer is no, because the “sitters” and the “active ones” both exercised at the same rate. But sitting appears to be an independent risk factor for disability.

If you ask people what they worry about when they get older, disability usually tops the list. We all want to be in control. We all want to be able to do the things we like. And this is especially true when we enter our so-called golden years.

This study shows that if you get off your butt, you might just save it.

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Dear Doc: I’m going to marry my new boyfriend, who has a toddler from his former marriage. I want to make sure my house is kid-friendly and kid-safe. I know about car seats, electrical plug covers, putting medications out of reach. What else is there? – Newlywed-to-be

Dear Newlywed: The joy of the Internet is that you can find out just about everything you want to know. After Googling “kid-proofing home,” I came up with website after website with information on what you should do to make your house child-safe.

Too many kids suffer serious injuries or die because we don’t take enough time to plug those electrical outlets, remove sharp objects from low surfaces and, according to new research out of the British Medical Journal, pay attention to burn risks.

Researchers found that children age 1 and younger were 10 times more likely to be burned than older kids. The biggest culprits are hot drinks. The next biggest problem? Curling irons.

You can picture it, can’t you? You’re in a rush, so you take your child with you into the bathroom while you curl your hair. Before you know it, they grab this hot poker – with horrible consequences.

So when you drink coffee with a child in the area, be super-safe. Think about where you place your cup and where that child is.

And when you’re making yourself up and using a curling iron, be sure your child is far enough away to not get burned.

See story on summer safety, Page 6

Dr. Zorba Paster is a physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email questions to him at zorba@wpr.org.