Stay Active, Stay Healthy
Learn the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. There are easy things we can do each day to keep moving and protect our health.
We have noticed that our patients who remain physically active tend to be the ones who also are most likely to remain healthy. However, our patients who get enough fresh air and who walk and exercise regularly are now in the minority. As our society changes and technology makes things “easier” for us, there is a growing tendency for people to become more sedentary. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 28% of Americans ages 6 and older meet the criteria for being physically active. This means approximately ¾ of Americans aren’t standing, walking, bending, reaching, lifting, and moving around enough in general.
Our bodies are designed to keep moving. Yet a large number of people spend most of the day seated. We sit on couches, recliners and computer chairs. We sit on park benches, bar stools, and bleachers. We socialize in restaurant booths. We sit behind the steering wheel for hours during our daily commute. Unless our bodies stand, walk, and move the way they were designed to, blood circulation can decrease, the heart can become weaker, and the brain will begin to receive less oxygen. Muscles can become stiff and sore. Eventually the skeletal muscles will atrophy (become smaller) from decreased usage. In time, other health issues can develop.
Health concerns that can be attributed to inactivity include:
Limited range of motion in the joints
Reduced muscle strength (due to fewer muscle contractions per hour)
Lower level of energy
Increased swelling and inflammation
Risk of obesity
Decreased calcium in bones
Difficulty sleeping at night
Poor blood circulation
Because too much sitting plus too little exercise is an unhealthy combination, what steps can we take to become more active during each week? It’s not as difficult as many people think.
Step one: Make a conscious decision to become more active. This doesn’t necessarily mean running off to sign up for an expensive gym membership. People have been able to maintain healthy lifestyles for thousands of years before gym memberships even existed. Simply accept the basic “use it or lose it” concept and make an effort to get off the couch or computer chair. Changing your routine slightly can lead to numerous health benefits. Determine to get up and on your feet a bit more.
Step two: Get some fresh air. Do you live near a park? Do you live near the beach? Do you live near a river or lake? Do you live near the mountains? Do you live near a wildlife refuge or conservation area? Do you know of any nature trails? Is there somewhere nearby with a nice sidewalk? Do you have a garden? Seek out beautiful places in your area where you can enjoy the outdoors. Take a break from recycled indoor air and experience a bit of clean outside air. Walk around. Stretch out tired leg muscles. Take deep breaths of air that hasn’t wafted through a dusty air vent hundreds of times. Make a habit of getting outside several days a week.
Step three: Interrupt extended sitting with brief periods of activity. Get up from the computer desk and walk to get a drink of water. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Wear comfortable shoes while at work to make walking more comfortable. Stand while checking email. Stretch your shoulders and arms. Talk a walk after lunch. While at home, interrupt lengthy periods of sitting to do a small household chore. Water the garden, get postage from the mail box, or vacuum a room. When driving on an extended car trip, stop at regular intervals to exit the vehicle and stretch stiff muscles. This will make you feel more comfortable, plus it will oftentimes heighten mental alertness.
Step four: Stand while using your phone / mobile devices. Don’t remain seated for long periods of time while using a phone or tablet. Stand comfortably or walk around the room as you talk on the phone. When standing, try to keep your weight balanced so that half of your body weight is being supported by your right leg, and the other half of your body weight is being supported by your left leg. If you’re texting, be mindful of your posture. Avoid angling your head too far forward which can fatigue the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Step five: Participate in enjoyable activities that promote physical activity. Because each person has a unique personality, the physical activity should be individually selected.
Here are some examples:
Do small home improvement projects. Revive an old bookcase with a fresh coat of paint. Paint your front door. Install brand new house numbers. Hide the wiring for a home office. Un-clutter the garage. Install a new mail box. Hang a mirror. Organize a collection of books. Build raised flower/garden beds.
Pick a hobby that promotes physical activity. Consider photography, bird watching, leather working, woodworking, landscaping, fishing, or gardening.
Become involved in a sport. Select something that you can either do alone or with a friend. Try canoeing, archery, bowling, yoga, cycling, golf, tennis, or swimming. Experiment with different sports until finding the right one. Learn stretches to improve flexibility. Remember to warm up and stretch prior to participating in any sport. If you haven’t participated in sports for a while, start slowly so that you can begin building up your stamina. If you have concerns about your health, speak with your chiropractor or family doctor prior to starting a new sports routine.
Volunteer for a charity or community organization. Keep physically active while making a difference in the community. Invest time and energy to assist children, animals, and adults in need. Helping others can reduce your stress level, while creating friendships, and improving your emotional and physical well-being.
Always be mindful of when you have remained seated for too long. Try to get moving at regular intervals throughout the day. If necessary, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stretch or take an exercise break. Your heart, lungs, brain, muscles, and skeleton will be glad you did.