With daylight saving time approaching, it is easy to fall into the habit of coming home from work or school, putting on comfy clothes, and parking in front of the TV or computer. Our bodies are naturally responsive to sunlight, which means we have to fight the urge to wind down as it gets darker so much earlier. Despite the seemingly shorter days, we have to make sure our exercising and eating habits don’t go to the dark side.
We spend most of our leisure time sitting. At work, more jobs involve sitting at a desk all day. When we travel to and from work, we are usually sitting in a car, bus, or train. All of this sitting and lying, with little exercise, puts us at risk of the health effects involved with a sedentary lifestyle.
What does an inactive or sedentary lifestyle do to your body?
According to the National Library of Medicine, when you have an inactive lifestyle:
- You burn fewer calories. This makes you more likely to gain weight
- You could lose muscle strength and endurance, because you are not using your muscles
- Your bones could get weaker and lose mineral content
- Your metabolism could be affected, and your body might have more trouble breaking down fats and sugars
- Your immune system might not work as well
- You could have poorer circulation
- Your body might have more inflammation
- You could develop a hormonal imbalance
What are the health risks of an inactive lifestyle?
The National Library of Medicine says an inactive lifestyle can be one of the causes of many chronic diseases. By not getting regular exercise, you raise your risk of:
- Heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancer
- Osteoporosis and falls
- Increased feelings of depression and anxiety
If you have become inactive, you have to start slowly whenever you get back into the routine of exercising. Your goal should be to gradually reach the recommended amount of exercise for your age and health.
The National Library of Medicine recommends finding exercises that work best for you, possibly starting with adding activity in smaller ways at home and at work.
Being more active around the house
- Housework, gardening, and yard work are physical activities. To increase the intensity, do them at a more vigorous pace
- Keep moving while you watch TV. Lift hand weights, do gentle yoga stretches, or pedal an exercise bike
- Work out with a video (on TV or the internet)
- Go for a walk. It can be more fun if you walk your dog, walk your kids to school, or walk with a friend
- Stand when talking on the phone
- Get exercise equipment. Treadmills and elliptical trainers are great, but not everyone has the money or space for one. Less expensive equipment such as yoga balls, exercise mats, stretch bands, and hand weights helps you get a workout at home too
Being more active at work
- Get up and move around at least once an hour
- Stand when you are talking on the phone
- Find out whether your company can get you a stand-up or treadmill desk
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Use your break or part of your lunch hour to walk around the building
- Walk to a colleague’s office instead of sending an email
- Have walking or standing meetings with co-workers instead of sitting in a conference room
As the urge to come home and unwind grows stronger with nighttime approaching sooner, remember the health implications that accompany lifestyles that involve little to no exercise. Look for exercises you can do using your body weight or ways to change your schedule to exercise in the morning.
For more information on the health risks of sedentary lifestyles, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.