With more people working from home, more of us are spending long hours each day sitting in front of a screen. Even if you don’t work from home, you may find yourself sitting for big parts of the day. When we relax, we often choose to sit and watch TV. When we get from place to place, we sit in our cars. All of this is causing more and more of us to lead inactive lives. What does all that inactivity do to our health and well-being?
The good news is that any amount of activity, even small, provides you with health benefits.
Physical inactivity can have serious implications for your health. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 adults do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity and up to 5 million deaths per year could be averted if the population was more active. Being inactive is among the leading causes of death and disability in the world, increasing our risk for things like diabetes, heart disease, depression and much more.
Learning more about the risks of inactivity, along with the benefits of exercise and some simple ways to get started can lead you to overall better health and wellness.
What Are the Health Risks of Being Inactive?
When you are inactive, you burn fewer calories. Over time, this causes you to gain weight and lose muscle strength. Your bones also become weaker, and your immune system may not work as well. All of this puts you at risk for several harmful health conditions, including:
- Heart disease and other heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancers, such as breast, colon and uterus
- Osteoporosis or harmful falls due to weakened bone strength
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
How Does Being Active Improve My Health and Wellness?
Moving more and sitting less has tremendous benefits for everyone no matter your current health, weight or age. The benefits of moving more?
- Helps keep your weight steady and prevent unhealthy weight gain
- Reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes
- Improves your sleep quality
- Reduces feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and anger
- Improves cognitive ability and reduces risk of dementia
- Improves bone health and balance, which may prevent falls
- Strengthens your immune system
- Helps you live longer and maintain greater independence as you age
All of these benefits add up to being more physically able as you age, leaving you with fewer medical expenses and medications, and providing you with a better mental outlook on life.
How Can I Increase the Amount of Activity I Get?
The good news is that any amount of activity, even small amounts, provides you with health benefits. Knowing this makes it much easier to get started. Here are some tips:
- Set a goal and make a plan. The more specific you are, the more likely it is you’ll do it. Setting a goal to walk for 15 minutes after dinner is more concrete than just saying “I’m going to try to add more exercise” and more doable than “I’m going to work out for two hours each day.”
- Map it out. We all wish we had more time, so if we don’t figure out when we can make physical activity happen, it might not. Think about when you might have a little time – during a lunch break, after dinner, on the weekend – and try to put it in your calendar. You can also look for times when you could add activity to something you already do. If you’re taking your kid to sports practice, can you take a walk for part of the time instead of sitting on the sidelines? If you like spending time with your family on the weekends, can you make it a family bike ride?
- Build up as you go. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week for adults. That could be 30 minutes, five days a week or you could break it down any other way that works for you. But remember, every minute counts, so if you’ve been inactive for a while, you may need to start slowly and gradually add more.
- Get creative. It doesn’t have to be marathon training or a gym membership. Physical activity can happen in many different forms. It could be housework, gardening, yardwork or walking the dog. It could be a 10-minute workout video you find on YouTube before you start your day. It could be a set of yoga moves while your family watches a movie. It all counts.
- Be mindful of how long you are sitting. If you have a job that requires you to sit in front of a screen, set a reminder to get up and move or stretch every hour. Take a quick break or take your next phone call while walking around and moving. Even short periods of activity can improve your health.
- Make it a family thing. Children should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity per day, which means the whole family can benefit from more activity. Check out Fitness Fun for the Whole Family for more ways to make your family active.
When you start looking for ways to increase your physical activity, you’ll see lots of opportunities and the health benefits will follow!