A basic law of physics states, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Our modern conveniences have altered human behavior in more ways than anyone could have predicted.
While convenience and comfort have certainly increased, the toll on human health is far worse than many realize. A sedentary lifestyle is crippling. As our lives become more convenient, they also become dangerously sedentary.
A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle where an individual participates in little to no physical activities. The person living in such a way is colloquially referred to as a couch potato, and they may normally find themselves feeling lethargic even having done nothing much for the day.
The individual is also often characterized by sitting or lying down for long periods of time, playing video games obsessively, overusing mobile phones and computers, or excessively watching television for hours on end. The lazy lifestyle can contribute to a lot of health hazards including mental illnesses, obesity, heart conditions, and even cancer.
If we do not use a muscle, it will atrophy, or waste away. If we exercise, we develop muscle tissues and maintain our weight. If we stop exercising and continue to indulge in a fast food diet, the muscles will atrophy and our body will begin to store the excess calories as fat.
Hearts and health
As a muscle, the heart also requires activity in the form of increased demand for blood. If we run around the block or use vibration equipment, our circulation will increase. Failing to take care of our heart, by living a sedentary life, can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke, and hypertension.
Again, movement and activity are the keys. Sitting still can literally kill us if we do it too much or for too long. Inactivity increases our body mass, or the ratio of fat to muscle within the body. Even simple, regular movement and muscle stimulation can provide our heart and other muscles with much needed activity.
Other health risks
Inactivity can lead to breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and Type 2 diabetes, among many other illnesses. World Health Organization (WHO) statistics claim sedentary living will cause 17 million deaths due to cardiovascular disease and that diabetes deaths will increase 50% in 10 years unless changes are made. This can be avoided with whole body vibration and a healthy diet.
Current WHO projections tell us that one out of every three human beings is overweight and that one out of every ten is obese. These conditions can lead to serious health risks and death. Luckily, being obese or overweight is preventable and treatable, as are atrophied muscles.
Regular exercise will help to restore good health. Basic changes in eating habits, such as drinking more water and eliminating fats, sugars, and highly processed foods will bring measurable results. In addition to dietary changes, individuals must participate in some kind of moderately intense physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days.
Despite the well-established emotional and physical benefits related to participation of moderate physical activities, most people are not utilizing these valuable life-sustaining opportunities that reduce various illnesses.
According to research done by an Australian University, it was found that a sedentary lifestyle can not only cause somatic effects but may also severely impair mental health. Another research done by Deakin University Center for Nutrition Research proved that a sedentary lifestyle could exacerbate anxiety in a person.
- Spending too much time seated is associated with a high risk of psychological distress and schizophrenia. However, among obese adults, participating in moderate to vigorous activities has been associated with minimal risk of depression.
- Adults over 60 years old who avoid sedentary behaviors have a reduced risk of dementia.
- Studies also prove that there is a 31% increase in development of bipolar mental disorder among the adults who engaged in more than 42 hours of TV watching or computer use in a week.
Although other factors such as pollution and technology do contribute to poor mental health, medical scientists have managed to establish a direct link between anxiety and increase in sedentary behaviors.
In summary, one of the solutions to better mental health is obvious: we should start moving more often! Therefore, take the stairs whenever you can. Stand up and take a brisk walk around the office every hour if you have a sedentary desk job. Seek opportunities that will add more movements and physical activities into your day.
Should I visit the doctor before exercising?
So, you’ve made the decision to “get back in the game” as far as exercising to improve your health. But do you need to see a doctor before starting if you have not been exercising in a while?
Even if you don’t have any health issues, it is a good idea to get a checkup first if you have been sedentary. Even a walking program can be dangerous if you have certain health issues. That way the doctor can run some tests to see if your lungs, cardiovascular system and joints can withstand the strain that exercising puts on the body.
It is imperative to get checked out if you have any existing health issues that could be exacerbated by exercising, such as:
- Being pregnant
- Have heart disease
- Diagnosed with asthma or other respiratory disease like COPD
- Have Type 1 or Type II diabetes
- Suffering from kidney disease
- Had cancer or currently being treated for it
In either case, your doctor can give you recommendations as far as an exercise (and nutrition) program that you can use to get to your goals for taking back up exercising in the first place. S/he can also provide a list of exercises you should not do because of a physical issue you may have.
For instance, if you have bad knees, you probably should not do high impact cardio exercises, such as running or jogging, but cycling and water aerobics may be fine.
Other symptoms that should trigger a doctor’s visit before exercising is if you notice any of the following:
- Ankle swelling at night
- Diagnosed heart murmur
- Lower leg pain when walking
- Shortness of breath during mild exertion
- Dizziness or lightheadedness when exerting oneself
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Unsteady on your feet
The American College of Sports Medicine also has a list of conditions that if two or more apply to you, you should see a doctor before starting an exercise program:
- Over 35 years old
- Significantly overweight
- A smoker
- High cholesterol
- Have impaired glucose tolerance, also known as prediabetes
- Have a family history of heart disease before age 60
- You don’t normally exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week
Exercising for at least 150 minutes per week (2 ½ hours) and eating nutritious food are two of the best things you can do to reap the health benefits derived from living a healthy lifestyle.
However exercising after being sedentary without first checking with your doctor can be dangerous and can lead to other health issues if not first cleared by your doctor.