So in preparation for our impending cabin fever, I planned a lot of activities. If you have ever actually met me, you know I don’t sit still for long. At one point in my life I could have sat and watched a marathon of something, but now that my life is in a never-ending chaos, I don’t enjoy sitting still. I have also learned a bit about sedentary habits that have turned me off to the idea of just sitting. This is technically part 2 of my American College of Sports Medicine information in the category of avoiding sedentary habits. (It is only mildly ironic that I am sitting at my computer while I write this).
So the question is, what does it mean to be sedentary? If you meet all the other ACSM exercise guidelines are you still sedentary? Unfortunately, the answer may be yes. The ACSM says “Sedentary behavior – sitting for long periods of time – is distinct from physical activity and has been shown to be a health risk in itself. Meeting the guidelines for physical activity does not make up for a sedentary lifestyle.” (ACSM, 2011). So sedentary can be described as too much sitting in your day, compared to just not getting enough exercise. If you are sedentary for greater than 7 hours a day (TV watching, an office job, sitting on the computer,commuting) you are at 50% greater risk of mortality from those sedentary activities and twice as likely to suffer from a cardiovascular death than the same person who only watches TV less than 1 hour a day. (Dunstan et al, 2012).
Another systematic review of studies also showed that sedentary behavior was directly related to earlier mortality, as well as increased risk of obesity spanning from childhood to adulthood. Again, the studies found that this risk was completely independent of other physical activity (Thorp et al, 2011). So, a person could be pretty active for a few hours a day, but the rest of their sedentary day adds to that obesity and mortality rate The same review of research found that a sedentary lifestyle also contributed to site specific cancers (ovarian, colon( in men only) and endometrial) as well as diabetes (Thorp et al, 2011). A caution regarding that particular evidence is that while they did find a link between the two, they did not calculate the role of BMI into that link. So the factor of obesity could play more of a role into those disease than the actual sedentary habit, they are not sure at this point.
So now that you have all this information, what can you do to become less sedentary?!
1. My very first rule is to fake it until you make it.
Most of us are exhausted at the end of the day, no matter what you do for a living. I come home from a long day and a long commute and just want to crash on the couch. However, I know and now you know that we just can’t do that. So don’t turn on the TV, don’t turn on the computer, just start moving.
2. Change the way you hang out with your friends/significant other.
- Go for a walk with your friends instead of going out to lunch, coffee or a movie. Even better, if you live in close enough to the city center, walk to those places with your friends.
- Have friends over for a barbecue and a game of volleyball in your backyard or play “Charades” in the house. We have had friends over where we recreated the Olympic games. https://whohastimeforthegym.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/the-olympic-games-9/
- Choose more active dates. https://whohastimeforthegym.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/10-calorie-burning-date-ideas/
3. Change up your work activities.
- Walk or bike to work.
- Always take the stairs and if you do drive, don’t park in the closest spot to the building.
- Walk on all of your breaks.
- Get up at least every 30 minutes to move around.
- Try a standing up desk.
4. Change up the way you play with your kids.
- Make play active in your house with everybody involved. Play hide and seek, freeze tag, hopscotch, or just kick a ball around.
- Try to take a walk with them everyday, if you can, walk or bike with them to or from school.
- Make your playdates more active. https://whohastimeforthegym.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/playdate-workout-part-1/
- Don’t let them see you watching a bunch of TV or playing on the computer all the time. (This is the hardest habit to break in our house).
5. Make your house a less sedentary place.
- Make a rule that the TV or computer doesn’t come on until after a certain time.
- When the TV or computer is on, get up and move every 30 minutes and/or every commercial break.
- Stand up to eat every once in awhile.
- Play lots of music.
- Set aside 20 minutes everyday to clean your house or garden. (I know that is not fun at all, but it keeps you active).
So now you have some ideas to avoid sedentary habits and hopefully you now have the information that will make you not want to be sedentary anymore. If you want to share some ideas or links to your favorite active activities, please leave a link in the comments. I am always happy to share them.
If you are ready to avoid being sedentary and have kids, then take the active parent challenge.
“ACSM Releases New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise”. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise
Thorp, A., Owen, N., Neuhaus, M.,& Dunstan,D. Sedentary behaviors and subsequent health outcomes in adults: A systematic review of longitudinal studies, 1996–201. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 41, Issue 2, August 2011, Pages 207–215.