Studies show that people who are more active have higher incomes, better brain function and get more love’n than those who are sedentary.
Yes, you read that right. What is a sedentary lifestyle and how can you get rid of this you ask?
Read on to find out the surprising answers to this question and much more.
Table of Contents
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle And Are You Sedentary?
Sure, most of us play around on our phones from time to time, spend some time sitting at work and catch a few hours of television or reading at night, but that doesn’t make us sedentary, right? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes, it does…
The official definition of a sedentary lifestyle per the CDC, classifies activities in a sitting or reclining posture requiring low levels of energy expenditure for at least 6 hours a day as being sedentary. In other words, if all the hours you spend at a computer, on your phone, watching tv, reading and commuting here and there adds up to 6 hours or more, you are indeed living a sedentary lifestyle.
At this point you might be thinking that okay, you do sit quite a lot but you workout so you aren’t really sedentary. Think again. Even if you exercise the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (per the CDC and American Heart Association) you are not immune to the negative implications that Sitting Disease (as it’s known in the medical community) can bring.
How in the World Did This Happen?
The short answer: Technology and capitalism happened.
Many of us don’t even realize how many hours we actually sit during the day. Our society has gradually become more sedentary over the years – especially at work, with an 83% increase in sedentary jobs since 1950, and with an increased average sitting time by an hour – in just the past 10 years. Along with our jobs becoming much more based in sitting we Americans are also working longer and longer hours. So much so that the U.S. has been deemed the most overworked developed nation in the world.
All of this culminates in the average American sitting approximately 12 hours a day, and the average office worker sitting an astounding 15 hours a day. That’s more than double the amount of time it takes to be classified as sedentary!
Is Inactivity Really That Bad?
The short answer: Definitely yes. The more inactive you are over time the more likely you are to feel like dog poo, develop disease, feel depressed (or anxious) and die much sooner than you would have otherwise.
Most information out there informs you about all the bad things that will happen if you are sedentary. Kinda like what I’ve already mentioned. Here’s the deal – facts don’t lie. It’s some pretty scary stuff, and honestly it’s enough to make me type this standing up. But for many people this tactic obviously isn’t working as the number of people suffering from disease and death associated with being inactive continues to grow literally by the day.
So today we are going to try a new tactic. We’ll still talk about the facts associated with inactivity, but we are also going to talk about what you can gain just by being slightly more active. From there we will help you construct an individualized plan to most effectively help you be more active.
First, some of the scary stuff:
- Physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality. Read that twice and let it sink in. Just sitting there is the 4th leading risk factor for your death.
- Being sedentary kills more people every year than HIV, and increases your death rate by 71%.
- Sitting (or lying) too much more than doubles your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, osteoporosis, depression and cognitive impairment.
- For older adults, a lack of activity can put their risk of developing dementia equal to that of adults who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
- A sedentary lifestyle changes the structure of your brain associated with memory formation.
How Active Do You Have to Be?
The short answer: More than you probably want to if you enjoy sitting for hours on end, but not really that much.
Basically, you need to take every chance you can to walk, stand up and move around. A few minutes every half hour is ideal, but at least every 2 hours.
The CDC and American Heart Association have issued the following recommendations for how much activity people should strive for on a weekly basis for adults (daily for kids):
- For adults: exercise 150 minutes/week
- For school aged children: exercise >60 min/day
- For preschool aged children: exercise 180 min/day
Why You Need to Get Rid of a Sedentary Lifestyle
First, you will have a much better chance of living longer. I feel like that should be enough of an incentive, but alas, history reveals that it is not.
Not only do you have increased odds of living longer, but you also have a better shot of feeling good during that time, sleeping better, not getting sick and feeling happier. All good, right? Many people know this, but yet here we are – still sitting ourselves to death.
Let’s take a time out and be brutally honest with each other, shall we?
If moving around is not your thing (or you are having difficulty making it a priority) then you are going to need to dig deep and find something that is near and dear to your heart to help you kick this into gear.
Many times, making changes in our lives comes down to one thing – motivation. What motivates you?
Yes, your back hurts. If I asked you to stand up and walk around for a few minutes every half hour you’d probably defer to that reason not to do it. But if I offered you $1,000 to do it for one day then you can bet that most people would suddenly feel like it was well worth the discomfort.
I suggest a raw and honest sit down (stand up?) conversation with yourself about what makes you happy, how you’ve been successful in the past, why this new goal is important to you and what changes need to occur for your goal to be a reality.
Off the beaten path motivators and benefits of being more active:
- Money. Studies show that people who are physically more active make more money. Nobody is certain which comes first, the chicken or the egg, but nonetheless there is a correlation worth standing up and moving around to investigate.
- Healthier sex life. In a survey of over 1,000 people, Freeletics reported that 34% of people who workout have sex several times a week, compared with just 15% of those who never workout. It also stands to reason that if you are more active you will have more stamina for this activity – And probably be better at it.
- Being smarter. It is a well researched fact that being active sharpens our focus and improves memory. So whether you just want to show off on trivia night, or apply your intellect to your job, getting moving is a tool in your success box!
This is in no way a complete list, but you can see that there are some good reasons to be motivated by other than being alive and healthy.
Now that you might have a little extra something to strive toward, let’s talk about some potential ways of getting you there!
How to Get Rid of the Sedentary Lifestyle And Be More Active
There are literally a million ways to be more active. Here is a list to get your brain thinking of possibilities.
Critical coaching moment here: Some people prefer to shoot down ideas, noting why things WON’T work for them. This is the easy way out. I challenge you to ask yourself: How can I make this work in my own life? Think outside the box, change perspective and get results!
- Walk whenever you are able. With a friend, an audiobook or whatever.
- Stand up as often as you can.
- Take the stairs.
- Chores count! Gardening, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, vacuuming.
- Play with you kids/pets.
- Do a few exercises at the kitchen sink.
- Go shopping.
- Join a class/group or start something informal in your neighborhood.
- Make it a non-negotiable part of your day (just like brushing your teeth (hopefully) or going to the bathroom.
- Set reminders on your phone to get up.
- Tell other people so they can help hold you accountable.
- Swim/play/exercise in the water. Or at least stand there.
- Dance to music.
- Play a video game standing up.
- Backyard games.
- Yardwork (we took a stone wall apart piece by piece and then built a fire pit and bench – it was actually very fun and a great workout!)
- Tennis (my personal favorite)
- Shoot baskets
- Stand up to play cards (or just when it’s your turn)
Now we need to check in with science to see how we can construct new habits so they are sustainable.
Making New Habits
We’ve all had aspirations of changing our lives and then fallen flat when we were unable to incorporate something new into our daily existence. Many books have been written about forming habits, but here are a few tips that scientist Katy Milkman (author of How to Change) says make new habits stick:
1. Tie your new habit to an existing one.
If you already stand up to brush your teeth at the sink, then try doing a few marches or heel raises while you stand there. If you already walk the dog in the morning, do a few squats at the end of the walk. Or walk up and down the stairs an extra time when you are retrieving something from upstairs – literally anything that makes you move.
2. Make it fun/pair your new habit with an activity you enjoy.
If you don’t love walking, but do love your friends – try walking several mornings a week with a friend or neighbor you don’t get to talk to very often. Or allow yourself to watch a soapy show on Netflix while riding a stationary bike, or even while you stand up and wash dishes.
3. Turn it into a competition.
This is partly why Fitbits have been so popular as it pits you in competition with yourself and the sometimes elusive 20,000 steps. This same principle can be used at workplaces encouraging their employees to be more active. If you enjoy competition and want to take it to the next level, join a local softball or tennis league.
4. Relate it to something you are passionate about.
Whatever is important to you- make it work for your goal of being more active. Passionate about helping animals? Volunteer to walk dogs at the local shelter. Love video games? Play them standing up. Be creative!
5. Start with a clean slate.
Studies show that starting a new habit on some kind of designated “fresh start day” appears to encourage people to stick with it more effectively. So whether it’s New Year’s Day, the start of a new season, Monday or simply the next morning – give yourself a fresh start.
6. Set yourself up for success with small changes.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Make small and very achievable goals for yourself. I can’t emphasize that enough – small and achievable. Achieving goals releases dopamine (a pleasurable chemical) into our brain. This is an important key in habit development.
I think you are ready to put your plan into action!
Find your motivation, pick some manageable activities, set some achievable goals and most importantly be patient with yourself. You got this! You might just live a longer, happier, smarter and wealthier life.
Featured photo credit: Toàn Nghĩa via unsplash.com
|||^||The Washington Post: Even with exercise, long periods spent sedentary deemed a health risk|
|||^||Forbes: Americans sit more than anytime in history and it’s literally killing us|
|||^||20 Something Finance: the U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world|
|||^||20 something finance: The U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world|
|||^||Korean J Fam Med.: Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks|
|||^||Medical News Today: Sedentary behavior raises dementia risk as much as genetic factors|
|||^||Front Public Health: Recommendations for Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behavior During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic|
|||^||Best Life: People Who Exercise Make This Much More Money|
|||^||StudyFinds: Survey: Fitness Fanatics Have Higher Incomes, More Sex Than Couch Potatoes|
|||^||Compr Physiol.: The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities|
|||^||James Clear: How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide|