Are You Moving Enough?

Is our lifestyle making us unhealthy?

The truth is that we, as a nation, have changed the way we live over the last 40 years. We’ve decreased the amount of physical activity in which we engage while simultaneously increasing the amount of sedentary hours we put in both at work and at home. This combination has led to harmful weight gain and preventable chronic diseases.

While an active lifestyle is essential for our health, it’s not always achieved by putting more hours in at the gym. Indeed, as new research suggests, even the simple act of standing more throughout the day can improve our physical and mental health.

We’re going to share three areas in which a sedentary lifestyle can harm you and 11 easy ways to incorporate more movement into your every day routine.

Lack of Movement Increases the Risk of Weight Gain

For years weight loss experts have been telling people to pair a healthy diet with adequate exercise. It turns out, the amount of daily movement you get may actually play an even more important role in weight maintenance than previously suspected.

An interesting study conducted at Stanford’s School of Medicine concluded that it’s the lack of exercise—not poor diets—that is directly linked to the rise in obesity here in The United States.

Data collected between 1988 through 2010 shows an increase in the amount of people who are overweight. However, the average number of calories that people consumed had not increased. That’s not to say that our diets haven’t changed, rather, that our net caloric intake has generally remained the same.

What has changed is the amount we move. Between 1988 and 2010 both men and women reported an increase in “sedentary leisure activities” of over 32%. People are simply moving 1/3 less than before.

Lack of Exercise Causes Chronic Diseases

The primary health risk associated with remaining stationary isn’t weight gain—it’s disease.  A study published by Frank Booth (of the Dalton Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Missouri) conclusively states that lack of exercise directly causes a large number of chronic diseases. The list includes:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Osteoporosis (and Osteoarthritis)
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Diverticulitis

These diseases can significantly impact a person’s quality of life as well as their expected lifespan. Worse yet, they’re all (for the most part) preventable.

Lack of Movement Impacts Mental Health

It’s not just your body on which lack of movement takes a toll. Did you know that movement is good for your mind and your mood as well?

Multiple studies have found a direct link between the amount of movement which people undertake daily and mental health issues including:

  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

How can you stave off these mental afflictions? Exercise. One study found that regular cycling or gym-based aerobic exercise was as effective as medication and psychotherapy for treating depression.

But you don’t need to hit the gym in order to enjoy improved mental health. Research from Harvard suggests that even slow, methodical movement (like meditative movement, yoga, or tai chi) can measurably decrease your risk of depression. Even better, the aforementioned activities can also improve self-esteem.

How to Add Movement to Your Daily Routine

What if there was a way to reverse the damage our sedentary lifestyles are causing?  There is!

A study of over 1 million people found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate exercise a day can actually overcome the harmful effects of sitting for up to 8 hours per day. But how can you add movement to your already busy day?

Simple Tips You Can Use Every Day

Here are some tricks you can use to add more movement to your day (including several endorsed by the Mayo Clinic):

  • Take a break from sitting at least every 30 minutes.
  • Stand whenever you can (at your desk, while talking on the phone, or even while watching television at home)
  • Consider a sit/stand desk or putting your work station above a treadmill.
  • Park farther away from work or shopping destinations.
  • Take a stroll after dinner rather than planting yourself on the couch.
  • Find a walk buddy or exercise partner—you’re likely to move more and stay engaged longer if you make movement a social activity.
  • Sit without pulling up a chair—squat, kneel, stand, and lean with your legs in different positions to hit those muscles you often forget about.

While these tips are extremely helpful for sneaking a little more movement into your daily routine, the key to long-term success (and long-term health) is to recreate your relationship with exercise and movement in general.

More Mindful Movement Means Better Results

When it comes to moving more, it really is a mind over matter game. If you change the way you think about movement, it could revolutionize the way you see everything from mundane chores to those mandatory exercise routines.

Reimagine Your Daily Routine

We all engage in physical activities every day. We make the bed, sweep (or vacuum), take the trash out. Stop thinking of these necessities as chores and instead see them as micro-investments for your health. Indeed, as Harvard researcher Ellen Langer notes, mind-set matters. It can even create a sort of placebo effect when it comes to improving your health.

Dress for Success

Don’t let the weather ruin your routine. Invest in quality outdoor gear so you’ll have no excuse to sit on the couch all winter long. We’re not suggesting you hike around the block in a blizzard, but investing in a waterproof coat makes going for a walk on a misty morning much more pleasurable (and likely).

Micro-Workouts Get Results in No Time

You don’t have to dedicate a solid hour at the gym if you build in mini-workouts throughout the day. Take five minutes and shoot for two rounds of 30-second sets of squats, elevated pushups, lunges, or jumping jacks to get pumped. Even better—you can do these workouts anywhere—the kitchen, your office, the driveway, wherever you happen to be.

Tiny Motions—Big Impacts

While most exercises hinge on big motions (squats, running, jumping jacks) there’s a lot to be said for moving the smallest body parts. These tiny moving parts can dramatically impact the way you feel. Did you know there are 20 articulated joints and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons in just your foot alone? Our feet are wonderfully designed for perfect balance on uneven terrain but hard-soled shoes have robbed us of those micro-motions by creating an unvaryingly flat walking surface. Break the habit by going barefoot when you can and massaging the soles of your feet at least once a week. This not only feels great but may also release and properly align your hamstrings, hips, and lower back.

In summary, you don’t need heavy equipment, specialized gear or a gym membership to overcome your sedentary work or home life. You just need to make the decision to move more every day.