The Hazards of a Sedentary Lifestyle
On average, how many hours per day do you spend being sedentary, just sitting, uninterrupted? One hour? Two hours? Three…or more?
Our ancient ancestors spent much of their time on the move, hunting and gathering to serve their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter and to avoid predators. The balance between movement and being sedentary has shifted dramatically over time, most notably since the technological revolution.
Unlike our ancestors, we no longer need to hunt for food and search for water. Instead, we are now on a quest for time, as hours fly by while we’re hunched over a keyboard. In an average day, most of us are likely sitting more than we are moving and consuming more calories than we are burning. Many of us regularly put in eight-hour workdays seated at a desk – sometimes even ten and twelve hour days. We then go home and unwind on the couch, binge-watching our favourite shows. The hours of not moving begin to add up.
Maybe we make a little time to fit in some exercise two or three times per week; however, with more conveniences at our fingertips, less movement is required in a day and we can do a lot more while moving a lot less. The longer we sit, the more our bodies begin to feel tight, tired and sore and the more cardiovascular fitness we lose. It’s clear that too much sitting isn’t good for us. But did you know that it can also lead to significantly reduced mortality, similar to the effects of smoking?
Sitting and Premature Death
That’s right; too much sitting can kill you! In fact, some are saying that “sitting is the new smoking” because its impact is so significant. According to recent research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, prolonged sitting increases your risk of similar diseases as smoking, such as heart disease, lung cancer, and diabetes. It also increases premature death by about 50 per cent! Even more surprising, too much sitting increases your risk for an early death regardless of your fitness level or other lifestyle habits. So even if you do make it to the gym a few times per week and make healthy dietary choices, a sedentary lifestyle or excessive sitting at work still predisposes you do die younger.
But sitting isn’t just bad for your heart or metabolism; it is also bad for your brain! Researchers at the University of California have discovered a connection between sedentary behaviour and thinning regions in the brain that are critical to new memory formation.
So, what if your job requires you to be at a desk, all day, every day? Are you supposed to quit? Well, of course, that’s not practical. However, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure that you keep your body regularly moving for a longer, healthier life.
Tips to be Less Sedentary & Live Longer
1. Squeeze in Exercise Whenever Possible
Bottom line, the more frequently you work out, the more you reduce your risk of premature death. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. While exercising 10 minutes or more at a time is ideal, shorter but frequent micro-bursts of exercise, like taking the stairs, can also be an excellent way to keep active.
2. Opt for Less Convenience
We live in a world of many technological conveniences, we deem them necessary and in some cases to our detriment. Turn back time and reverse your biological clock by opting for “less convenient” choices in your day. Walk over and have a conversation with your colleague instead of sending an email or making a phone call. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Bike to work instead of driving. Changing your daily activities can make a significant impact!
3. Make a Point of Moving Every 30 Minutes
Research shows that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of early death. Meetings and deadlines don’t always offer the freedom to move, but ideally, you don’t want to be sitting for any longer than three hours at a stretch. Setting a timer on your phone can be a helpful reminder to take regular movement breaks. Do a few stretches next to your desk, do some jumping jacks, knees-up or push-ups. You’ll be more productive for taking that short break and get more circulation and nutrients to your brain.
4. Use a Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough activity in your day. As health and fitness wearables grow in popularity, there is an increasing number of options available for every budget and lifestyle. Personally, I love my Fitbit. There are also a wide variety of exercise apps out there to track your progress and monitor your success with motivational milestones to keep you moving. MyFitnessPal is my favourite app to track exercise and calorie intake. I don’t obsess over it, but I do find it helpful to keep me honest with what I’m eating and how much I’m moving.
5. Try a Stand-up Desk
As awareness grows about the health concerns associated with chronic and prolonged sitting, more companies have already begun re-examining ways they can improve employee wellness. In some environments, adjustable desks are offered to provide workers with opportunities to stand instead of sitting if they so choose. There are even treadmill desks so you can walk while you work. If a standing desk is not an option for you, try moving your laptop to a tall counter or table as a means to squeeze in more standing.
6. Move Before, During and After Work
Get up a little earlier to squeeze in some exercise, even if it’s only 15 minutes, before work. Take a walk on your break or at lunch. Go for a swim, bike ride, run or walk in the evening. Spreading exercise throughout your day helps break up the long bouts of sedentary behaviour.
7. Turn off the TV, Get Off your Tablet or PC and Put Down Your Phone
All of these devices are intended to be addictive. Imposing a time limit and sticking to it can help you avoid being sucked into wasting hours on these devices that could be spent moving.
8. Do Some Housework, Yard Work or Gardening
All of these activities involve movement and are far more productive than binge-watching the latest show.
Do you spend excessive amounts of time sitting? Do you experience any health problems that you think could be related to a sedentary lifestyle such as weight gain, back pain, insomnia or high blood pressure? Let’s chat and get to the root of your health issues. Book an appointment with us and together we will find ways to improve your overall health and well-being so that you can live your life to its fullest and longest.
Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca or book online here.
To your best health!
The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic