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Last Updated on September 28, 2022

What is a Sedentary Lifestyle and How to Stop Sitting Too Much

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What is a Sedentary Lifestyle and How to Stop Sitting Too Much

Studies show that people who are more active have higher incomes, better brain function, and get more love’n than those who are sedentary.[1] [2] Yes, you read that right. So how can you get on board with being more active when many of us struggle to find the motivation to do so?

First, what is the meaning of a sedentary lifestyle? Also, how do we become more active? Read on to find out how to define sedentary and to find other surprising answers to these questions and more.

What is a Sedentary Lifestyle?

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.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical inactivity is defined as not participating in any physical activities (running, walking for exercise, gardening) over the last month.[3] If this fits your current level of activity, then read on to figure out how you can get out of your sedentary lifestyle and why it is important to do so.

Is Inactivity Really That Bad?

The short answer: Definitely yes.

Most information out there informs you about all the bad things that will happen if you are sedentary. Here’s the deal – facts don’t lie. But for many people knowing just the facts don’t work.

So today, we are going to try a new tactic. We’ll still talk about the facts associated with inactivity, but we will also talk about what you can gain by being slightly more active. From there, we will help you construct an individualized plan to most effectively help you be more active.

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Some facts on how sitting all day and other sedentary behaviors are killing you:

  • Being sedentary increases your death rate. According to studies, 31% of the global population of the world consists of inactive individuals over the age of 15. This contributes to the death of 3.2 million people annually.[4]
  • 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.

Why Do You Have a Sedentary Lifestyle?

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, you can bet that most people would suddenly feel like it was well worth the discomfort.

I suggest a raw and honest sit-down 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.

How to Get Rid of a Sedentary Lifestyle and Be More Active

How active do you need to be? The short answer: More than you probably want to if you enjoy sitting for hours on end, but not really that much.

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The CDC and American Heart Association have issued the following recommendations for how much activity people should strive weekly for adults and daily for kids:[5]

  • Adults: exercise 150 minutes/week
  • School-aged children: exercise > 60 min/day
  • Preschool-aged children: exercise 180 min/day

Getting Started

There are literally a million ways to be more active. Here is a list to help give you some ideas on how to get started:

  1. Walk whenever you are able. Skip the elevator for the stairs, listen to an audiobook on a walk – there are more opportunities to walk than you think
  2. Stand up as often as you can
  3. Chores count! Gardening, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, vacuuming
  4. Play with your kids or pets
  5. Do a few exercises at your desk or workstation
  6. Join a class/group or start something informal in your neighborhood
  7. Set reminders on your phone to get up
  8. Tell other people so they can help hold you accountable
  9. Dance to music
  10. Play a video game standing up
  11. Yoga
  12. 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!)
  13. Tennis (my personal favorite)
  14. Shoot baskets
  15. Stand up to play cards (or just when it’s your turn)

Here’s a quick workout to get your started:

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!

Create New Habits

Now we need to check in with science to see how we can construct new habits so that a sedentary lifestyle can be sustainable.

We 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.

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2. Pair Your New Habit With an Activity You Enjoy

If you don’t love walking, but do love your friends then 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

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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TL;DR

Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

What is a Sedentary Lifestyle and How to Stop Sitting Too Much

Physical inactivity is defined as not participating in any physical activities (running, walking for exercise, gardening) over the last month. 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.

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: exercise 150 minutes/week.

Tying your new habit with an exisiting one is one way to incorporate more active movements; do squats after walking your dog or add in heel raises while brushing your teeth.

Find your motivation, pick some manageable activities, set some achievable goals and most importantly be patient with yourself.

Featured photo credit: Studio Republic via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kat Truman

Life Coach at The Power of Change, licensed Physical Therapist.

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