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Published on August 13, 2021

What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle And How To Stop It

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What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle And How To Stop It

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.

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.[1]

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,[2] 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.[3]

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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%.[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.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • 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):[7]

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  • 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:

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  • Money. Studies show that people who are physically more active make more money.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10] 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!

  1. Walk whenever you are able. With a friend, an audiobook or whatever.
  2. Stand up as often as you can.
  3. Take the stairs.
  4. Chores count! Gardening, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, vacuuming.
  5. Play with you kids/pets.
  6. Do a few exercises at the kitchen sink.
  7. Go shopping.
  8. Join a class/group or start something informal in your neighborhood.
  9. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day (just like brushing your teeth (hopefully) or going to the bathroom.
  10. Set reminders on your phone to get up.
  11. Tell other people so they can help hold you accountable.
  12. Swim/play/exercise in the water. Or at least stand there.
  13. Dance to music.
  14. Play a video game standing up.
  15. Backyard games.
  16. Yoga
  17. 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!)
  18. Tennis (my personal favorite)
  19. Shoot baskets
  20. 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.

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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.[11] 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.

Featured photo credit: Toàn Nghĩa via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kat Truman

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

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Last Updated on October 20, 2021

7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

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7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

If you’re trying to be as productive as possible, stress will always be your biggest obstacle—and it’s not an easy one to overcome. To do it, you’ll need to develop a plan to make stress management a core component of your daily routine, but doing that takes commitment. The good news is that if you succeed in learning how to manage stress, you’ll unlock your potential and be well on your way to peak performance. But first, you need to learn how to make it happen.

The best way to do that is to learn about and integrate some stress management rituals into your daily routine. To help you get started, here are seven tips on how to manage stress and improve your productivity.

1. Give Yourself an Extra Hour in the Morning

If you were to do some research on some of the world’s most successful—and productive—people, you’d notice that many of them have one thing in common: they tend to be early risers. Apple’s Tim Cook gets out of bed before 4 AM each day.[1] Michelle Obama is already getting in her daily workout at 4:30 AM.[2] Richard Branson gets up at 5:45 AM each day, even when he’s vacationing on his private island.

There’s a good reason why they all do it—once you reach the point in your day that your work schedule kicks in, you no longer have control of your time. That means you have a limited opportunity every morning to reduce your stress by taking care of the things you need to do without anyone making other demands on your time.

What’s important about this isn’t the time you get up. The important part is getting up early enough to start your day without feeling rushed. For most people, getting up an hour earlier than you normally would is sufficient. This should give you ample time to complete your morning tasks without having to hurry or fall behind.

But when you implement this ritual, be careful. Don’t do it at the cost of getting the right amount of sleep each night. If you do, you might increase your stress instead of relieving it. Sticking to a proper sleep schedule and getting enough sleep is, in itself, a critical part of stress management.[3]

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2. Determine and Review Your Most Important Tasks Each Day

If there’s one productivity tip that almost all experts agree on, it’s that you should spend some time before bed each night to write down your three most important tasks for the following day. But if you want to maximize that practice and turn it into a stress-buster, you should turn that notion on its head.

Instead, you should do this as a part of your morning routine. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s that our always-on, always-connected business world means your priorities can change overnight, literally. You may list your top priorities, go to sleep, and wake up to find them woefully out of date. That means the best time to set your priorities for the day is in the morning. This will keep those priorities up to date and let you think about them before the distractions of the day begin. But don’t stop there. You should take some time before bed each night to review that day’s priorities.

Ideally, you’ll be able to check them off as accomplished. If not, though, think about what prevented you from getting to them. This is your chance to figure out some of the common daily interruptions that get in your way. Chances are, these also cause some of your stress. So, spend the time before bed game-planning how to remove those interruptions and stressors from your day. If you make this a habit, you’ll be more productive and far less stressed out in no time.

3. Save Your Emails for Later in the Morning

Another tip on how to manage stress is to save your emails for later. One of the key causes of stress comes from our inability to cope with the unexpected. If you stop to think about it, what is your most prominent source of near-constant unexpected information every day? You guessed it—it’s your email.

Now, you can’t simply ignore your email. The only thing you can do about your email is to learn how to manage it most effectively. But no matter what you do, it’s going to remain a source of daily stress and distraction. That’s why you should make a habit out of giving yourself an email-free hour or two at the beginning of each day’s schedule.

In that time, try to tackle one of your daily priorities and get it taken care of. Your email will still be there when you’re done. And when you do get to it, you’ll do so in a much better frame of mind knowing that you’ve already gotten some real work done before having to deal with anything unexpected. That alone will improve your mood and reduce the amount of stress you’ll feel—no matter what’s waiting for you in your inbox.

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4. Take a Walk After Email Time

Since you’ll have to deal with your email sooner or later, there’s no way to completely avoid the stress that will come with it. Although you’ll be in a better frame of mind after putting off your email to get some real work done, you’ll still feel some stress when you get to it. That’s why you should make a post-email walk a part of your daily routine.

Taking a walk is one of the best ways you can relieve stress. It’s a form of meditation that will put you back into the right condition to be productive, and there’s no better time to do it each day than after taking care of your emails.

Ideally, you’ll want to take a walk outdoors, and preferably in the most natural setting possible. If you’re in an urban environment, a nearby park will suffice. Studies have demonstrated that walking in such environments for as little as 20 minutes per day leads to an overall reduction in the body’s cortisol level.[4]

Cortisol, if you’re not aware, is your body’s main stress hormone. It helps regulate your blood pressure, energy levels, and even your sleep cycle. Every time your stress goes up, cortisol production also increases, throwing your body into chaos. So, taking a walk right after dealing with your email will help you to relax, reset, and get ready to be productive for the rest of the day.

5. Reserve Time to Research and Plan a Vacation

By now, everybody knows that taking vacations every now and then can improve your productivity and lower your stress level. But did you know that even thinking about a vacation can help you to reduce your stress? It may sound strange, but it’s true.

A Cornell University study in 2012 found that the anticipation of a positive experience—like a vacation—can reduce stress and make you measurably happier. It logically follows, then, that adding to that anticipation each day can maximize the stress-relieving effects of a vacation.[5]

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To do it, set aside at least a half-hour each day to research or plan an upcoming vacation. You can read about destinations. You can research airfares. You can even look at places to stay in locations you’re interested in visiting. And if you’ve already got a vacation booked, use the time to take a deep dive into what your destination has to offer.

This is an especially important daily ritual to observe right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic may be limiting your vacation options. If it’s been a while since you’ve been able to take a trip, the act of planning your next vacation will have a therapeutic effect. With vacation rental bookings still hovering below 50% in most major markets, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people are in desperate need of their next stress-relieving vacation.[6]

6. Create a Shutdown Ritual to End Your Day

Another simple yet effective way to manage stress is to create a shutdown ritual. Just as it’s important to get your day off to a stress-free, unhurried start, you’ll want to do the same when the day is through. It’s because after spending each day in a reactive mode—dealing with the unexpected—you need to get back into a proactive mode to relax.

Studies have shown that having the perception of control over what you’re going through acts as a buffer against negative stress.[7] In other words, feeling like you can manage even a small chunk of your own time counteracts the stress from the parts of your day when you can’t.

This also means that your shutdown ritual can be whatever you want it to be. You might write in a journal, get in a quick light workout, or prepare your outfit for the following day. As long as you’re the one in complete control over what you’re doing, anything goes. Just make sure that you include the aforementioned review of your daily priorities somewhere in your routine!

7. Set a No-Screens Rule to End Your Day

Even though your shutdown routine is important, there’s one more ritual to include before bedtime that will help you manage stress. Spend the last 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to go to sleep observing a strict no-screens rule. Not only will this give you time to disconnect from the stresses of your day, but it will also allow your body to make a transition into a proper sleep mode.

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The screens we use—smartphones, tablets, laptops—all emit a wavelength of blue light that disrupts our sleep patterns. It’s the same type of light that our bodies recognize as daytime, so seeing it is like telling your brain that it’s the wrong time to be asleep.[8]

By eliminating all sources of this type of light before bedtime, you’ll increase your odds of getting restful, deep sleep. And since getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to manage your stress, this is the perfect way for you to end each day.

Final Thoughts

Although a totally stress-free lifestyle would lend itself to achieving maximum productivity, not many people will ever manage to live that way. So, the next best thing is to work some or all of these daily stress-busting rituals into your day to minimize the inevitable stress instead. Doing so will put you in the best possible position to succeed. And there’s no better antidote for stress than to make the most out of every day no matter what it has to throw at you.

More Tips on How to Manage Stress

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

Reference

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