Sedentary vs. Active Lifestyles

 Think about the way people lived many years ago. If you wanted to talk to your friend you couldn't text your friend on your smart phone, instead you had to get up and walk to your corded phone and have a conversation or even walk to their home for a visit. Modern day conveniences such as washers and dryers, dishwashers, computers and of course cars have all contributed to an inactive lifestyle. So what's the difference of a sedentary and an active lifestyle? How much activity does it take to become a person who is considered "active" and what are some changes that you can make today to increase your activity and improve your health? 

A little over a month ago, I was a guest speaker on the radio show Vibrant Living where we discussed this very topic. Click here to listen to the podcast.

What is a sedentary lifestyle? Well it is characterized by a predominantly inactive way of life. The phrase "sitting disease" is another term for sedentary lifestyle. Consider how much you sit all day long: in your car, at your desk, eating meals, watching t.v. etc. Currently more that 60% of Americans are not regularly active and 25% are not active at all.

How much activity do we really need?

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that adults over 18 years old need 20 minutes of moderate to brisk aerobic exercise Daily and 2-3 days of strength training activities. However, the negative effects of prolonged sitting are not significantly reversed by exercise. Research is showing that physical activity and sedentary behavior act independently through different mechanisms. This explains why the damage of prolonged sitting is not alleviated by 30 minutes of daily exercise alone. Did you catch that? You can still workout, but sit a large part of the day and still reap the negative affects of a sedentary lifestyle. What I find so discouraging about this is that so many clients of mine sit in traffic to work, then sit at their desks, sit for lunch, sit some more at their desk, sit on the commute home, sit to eat dinner, then they sit in front of the t.v., and finally they lay down to go to sleep and repeat. Often they work out 2-3 times per week for about an hour, but the damages of sitting down all day or living a sedentary life, are not reversed by their workouts. 

So what are the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle?

1. Poor posture- Sitting too long causes muscle imbalances throughout the entire body. Poor posture leads to headaches, fatigue, and joint pain just to name a few.

2. Dramatically increases your risk of developing many preventable diseases- A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, anxiety, osteoporosis and many other health problems

3. Weight gain- Obesity is another result of an inactive lifestyle.

How do you switch from a sedentary lifestyle to one that is active, without doing a whole career overhaul?

1. Get moving- Do not sit for more than an hour at a time. If you work at a desk, purpose to get up every hour and move, even if it is just a little bit. We've all heard this before-take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far away from the store and take more steps, etc. Whatever you choose to do, make movement a large part of your day.

2. Buddy up- Studies show working out with a friend is good for your fitness and health. It keeps you accountable to your workout, improves your quality of life, and it can boost your athletic performance.

3. Fitness tools for motivation- Pedometers, heart rate monitors, and fitness apps for your smart phone all help to get you more active. Pedometers measure each step you take. It is recommended that we take 10,000 steps a day, however the average American takes 3,000-5,000 steps per day, which is not enough to maintain good health. Having a pedometer helps you become aware of how many steps you are taking each day. Heart rate monitors are highly motivating, by staying in the right heart rate zones not only improves your fitness and keeps you on track with your fitness goals, it's also motivating. To find out how to calculate your target heart rate click here. There are countless fitness apps to help you plan your next workout, the sky is the limit. I personally use Codyapp. It is an app you can access countless workouts wherever you are, however you do have to pay for the workouts, but the instructors are highly qualified. It's the workout DVD for the modern age. 

The most important take away message is to get moving and have fun! You will not regret making the change!

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