According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four adults in the United States sits for more than eight hours a day. So, if you’re like most people, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, you probably aren’t getting in much movement on a daily basis.
Research shows that this sedentary kind of lifestyle can lead to health problems in the future. It’s extremely important to get up and move throughout your day — even if you do a workout in the morning or afternoon.
“The more you sit, the more your large muscles are not using glucose, the body’s main energy source. Uninterrupted sitting can cause blood sugar levels to rise, triggering the release of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar,” cardiologist Dr. Hicham Skali said.
He added that this can cause the body over time to build up insulin resistance, which can lead to a buildup of plaque inside arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. That’s not all, though. There are lots of reasons to increase your movement throughout the day.
The risk of a sedentary lifestyle
There have been numerous studies on the dangers of uninterrupted sitting over the years. The results have pointed to concerns such as a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, greater risk for type 2 diabetes, increased risk for heart disease, increased risk of anxiety and depression, and more.
One study, reported Harvard Health Publishing, surveyed 2,600 people above the age of 60. It found that those who sat for roughly three hours a day were 33% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who sat for closer to seven hours a day.
Another study found that women who reduced their sedentary time by just one hour each day, lowered their risk of heart disease by 26%. What’s more, is that one hour of activity didn’t have to happen all at once. Even getting up for just a few minutes a few times a day made a huge difference.
The CDC also reported that lack of physical activity throughout the day can increase the risk of several cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, uterus, esophagus, kidney, lung and stomach.
The benefits of regular movement
On the other hand, regular movement can actually provide quite a lot of health benefits and will likely help you feel better overall.
Studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins — even something as simple as a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Endorphins not only help you feel better, but they can also increase your concentration and mental sharpness. It literally makes your brain bigger.
“Exercise stimulates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which facilitates the growth of new connections in the brain and improves the health of existing neurons,” psychologist Dr. Ellie Cobb said. “High-intensity aerobic exercise has been found to increase the volume of the brain regions associated with memory, reasoning, and learning.”
Regular movement has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, boost your mood, and help you get a better night’s sleep.
“Engaging in fitness during the day increases the amount of time spent in a deep sleep during the night. Spending more time in the restorative sleep stage not only enhances your immune system functionality, but it can also help manage stress and anxiety,” Cobb said.
The benefits of movement are not limited to your mental health, of course. We already know that staying active helps boost your cardiovascular health and prevent heart disease. It also can give your metabolism a boost and help keep you from becoming overweight or obese.
Sun Health Wellness also reported that just 30 minutes of activity a day can strengthen your bones enough to help prevent osteoporosis.
Even more so, as odd as it may sound, regular low-impact movements such as walking, swimming and stretching can help relieve chronic pain even more than bed rest. Just consult with your doctor on what the safest type of movement is for you first.
How to get more movement in your day
Getting more movement in your day doesn’t have to be overly time consuming or difficult. Especially if you already workout on a regular basis — it’s actually pretty easy to make a few simple changes.
Try setting a timer to get up and move a little bit every hour or so. These can be simple movements like walking around the house, doing a few jumping jacks or squats, or even dancing around your living room. Whatever gets you moving and helps shake out those muscles — do it!
You should also consider taking a walk in the afternoon (if the weather is nice enough). This not only gets you moving a little more in your day, but it should offer you an energy boost, more vitamin D, and give you more concentration when you go back to your normal tasks.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends adding movement in with your normal tasks. For example, make a few extra trips when taking in your groceries or stand up while folding your laundry. You can also try pacing while talking on the phone with someone or while you’re watching TV.
Making just a few changes to your normal routine can have a lasting impact on your body, so don’t be afraid to get up and get moving.