You might not like the idea of going to a gym for exercise. Heck, you might not even like the idea of exercise. The fact is, however, if you don’t get some on a regular basis, your health is going to you-know-where in a hand-basket. For real. A sedentary lifestyle is among the top issues that pose the greatest health risks for human beings. If you’re sedentary on a daily basis, it basically means that you spend a majority of your time sitting or in an inactive state.
Let’s get something straight right from the start. “Rest” is good. In fact, for overall good health and a strong immune system, you need to attain a nice balance between rest and exercise. For the purpose of this post, “exercise” is being defined as “whole body movement,” which is the exact opposite of a sedentary lifestyle. You might think that, as long as you don’t have dangerous habits, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, then “sitting” isn’t going to harm you in any way. We’re not just talking about “sitting” here. We’re talking about “chronic sitting,” as in, you sit more than you move on a regular basis.
A sedentary lifestyle is a leading cause of illness and disability
In accordance with current health guidelines, a “sedentary lifestyle” is “less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity equivalent aerobic physical activity” per week. That’s two and one half hours. Per week. If you’re not getting somewhere around this amount of whole-body movement, increased heart rate and exercise each week, you’re at great risk for illness, disease and disability.
One study showed that more than 8% of deaths in people between the ages of 25 and 40 are attributable to a sedentary lifestyle. For those in the 40 to 69 age group, it’s nearly 10%. Think about this for a moment. Out of every 100 people in this age group, 10 of them will die from issues associated with lack of movement and exercise. That’s astounding!
Risk of diabetes, heart disease, etc., doubles in a sedentary lifestyle
When you’re not providing your body the opportunity to move around, you’re putting your health at risk. If you rarely perform activities that temporarily increase your heart rate, your health will suffer . It’s as simple as that. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you are twice as likely to develop certain diseases. These include obesity (which places you at even more risk for illness, disease and disability), cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Not moving around enough on a weekly basis also increases your risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and colon cancer.
In addition to the risk for physical illness, a sedentary lifestyle also makes a person prone toward depression and anxiety disorders. Estimates show that as many as 60% to 85% of adults throughout the world are sedentary! Sadly, studies also show that nearly two-thirds of the world’s children have also become “chronic sitters.” This is a serious health issue for adults and kids alike and is something that often goes unmentioned in discussions on health care, especially in the United States.
Don’t let body image acceptance make obesity ‘normal’ or ‘okay’
In recent years, both the so-called “beauty” industry, as well as life-coaching sectors, have come out in full force to promote self-acceptance and self-love. These are good things. There are many people who experience severe emotional and mental health problems due to body dysmorphic disorders (BDD). BDD is a condition that causes a person to obsess (usually in a negative way) over his or her body, specifically, self-perceived flaws. This is not healthy. So, on the one hand, it is good and right that life coaches, psychologists and “beauty industry experts” should promote a healthy self-image as a goal we should all strive to achieve.
Here comes the big BUT:
BUT, a dangerous trend has arisen through these marketing campaigns and counseling sessions that encourage people to love themselves “just as they are.” There’s been a shift where obesity is now celebrated and considered normal or okay. While it might not be a popular thing to say right now and some readers might get mad, I’m going to say it because it needs to be said — obesity is neither normal nor okay. Further, obesity, alongside a sedentary lifestyle, is a recipe for ill-health and premature death.
Dietary and lifestyle choices are keys to good health
So many adverse health conditions are curable through diet and exercise. In fact, most people would be able to avoid serious illness, disease and disability by making healthy diet and lifestyle choices. A sedentary lifestyle is NOT a healthy choice. Even if a person were to eat and drink healthy things as a “chronic sitter,” he or she would still be at greater risk for illness. Most people who live a sedentary lifestyle also have other bad habits. Such habits often include smoking, vaping or eating processed sugar on a daily basis. Many people also consume excess amounts of alcohol or have prescription drug addictions. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, these habits create a health disaster. Making wiser food and lifestyle choices greatly improves health!
Kicking the sedentary lifestyle habit
Some people love to engage in a formal exercise routine. Others hate it. That’s okay, as long as those in the latter group don’t let their dislike of exercise keep them from getting an adequate amount of whole body movement and increased heart rate in their weekly routine. The following list includes several ideas that can help you become more active, even if you don’t like to exercise:
- If your work requires sitting for hours at a time, take a break every couple hours. Go for a brisk walk and do some stretches.
- Choose a sport or outdoor game you like and try to do it several times per week. (This can even be playing kickball with your kids or catching a Frisbee, etc.)
- Several times per week, go find some hills or stairs and climb them, until your perceived exertion level is between 7 to 10.
- Get around locally by walking, whenever possible (Do you live a few minutes from church yet drive there each week? Consider walking, instead.)
- Work in a garden, do chores around the house or choose projects that require you to be up and moving.
- Swap sedentary activities during free time for activities that include whole body movement. For instance, trade watching a movie for taking a hike.
- Consider getting a dog, so that you can take it for walks on a daily basis.
The whole take-the-stairs-instead-of-the-elevator thing has merit! Any activity that gets your body moving and temporarily raises your heart rate is good. It helps you become less sedentary, which, in turn, helps you improve your health!