Healthypedia
Brenton Barker

How To Turn Sedentary Routines Into Active Life

Are you sitting longer than you should? Are bad habits creeping into your lifestyle? Today it's time to get up off the chair and get active because a healthy you is a happy you.

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Advances in technology are wonderful, and they make our lives more convenient and definitely easier than our ancestors, but with the advances in technology also comes the increase in people leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Take, for instance, obesity which has skyrocketed in recent years along with massive upticks in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and several other weight-related issues.

Today we look at simple and practical ways in which you can turn your sedentary lifestyle into an active, healthy, and productive one.

The risks of a sedentary lifestyle

Leading a sedentary or inactive lifestyle may be impacting your health in ways you don’t realise. For instance, a study of 15,000 people showed that sitting and watching TV for hours significantly increased your chance of fatal blood clots. The study found that TV watchers had a 70% increased risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE) than non-TV watchers.

To highlight the importance of making small changes, a study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed that standing more often during the day increases your chances of losing weight, and here’s the best part: keeping it off too.

The power of walking should not be underestimated either. Walking has been shown to improve muscular strength, boost aerobic fitness, and relieve stress and anxiety. Research shows that decreased leg muscle strength in older adults is closely associated with slower walking.

For people aged 75 and over, slower walking speeds represent a 10-year reduction in longevity – a good reason to start walking your way to a longer life today.

Step 1: Get walking – it’s the easiest way to become more active

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A plethora of research shows the physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits of walking.

A 26-year Nurses Heath study looked at four low-risk lifestyle factors, including not smoking, regular daily exercise, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Remarkably the follow-up showed women with ‘low risk’ across the four factors had a 92% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

A 2015 study published in Medicine & Science In Sports & Science showed that taking just three short walks during the day can significantly reduce the chance of developing potentially fatal blood clots.

Practical tips for implementing walking into your daily routine

1Ditch the elevator and take the stairs

One of the best ways to start walking more is to take the stairs. A 2017 study looked at the effect stair climbing three times weekly for 20 minutes had on women’s health. Researchers found a 12% improvement in aerobic fitness after just six weeks. So next time you’re at the shopping mall, ditch the elevator and take the stairs.

2Leave your car keys at home

Yes, having a car is not only convenient but for many people, having a car is also a necessity. Did you know research suggests that compared to walking or cycling, driving your car to work is associated with higher risks of obesity?

A study published in the British Medical Journal looked at the body fat of men who drove to work and those who commuted by public transport or other ‘active modes.’ Researchers found that the men who commuted to work by public transport had 3% lower body fat than those who drove.

3Look for the farthest car park

Another excellent way to get more steps in is to park your car at the farthest spot possible. Whether it’s at the shopping mall, running errands, or taking the kids to sports, park your car as far away as you can. Make sure, though, that you’re in an environment you know is safe.

This simple yet effective tip not only gets you walking more but also lets you soak in the sun, breathe the fresh and gives you a chance to clear your head from the day’s stresses.

4Get cleaning

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Tonight when you’ve finished dinner, instead of heading straight for the sofa, why not make it a habit to do your daily chores? You can do any number of chores like:

  • Vacuuming

  • Wiping down the benches

  • Doing the laundry

  • Sweeping the floors

  • Cleaning the bathroom

The more you move, the more likely you are to burn calories, get fit, and build positive lifestyle habits; plus, you’ll have a clean house and extra free time on the weekends.

5Evening walks

One of my favourite ways to stay active is by taking a walk with my wife and daughter after dinner. Not only does walking after eating help to control your blood sugar levels, but it dramatically reduces your risk of insulin resistance, not to mention you get to spend quality time with your family.

6Start gardening

Gardening is a wonderful way to get outside and get moving, but not only that, you’ve got the added bonus of growing your own food.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that gardening is linked to better overall health status, including a significant decrease in the chance of developing diabetes.

If you haven’t got the space in your backyard to plant a garden, there are other ways to get started. Many local councils have community gardens where you can volunteer to help out and even get the chance to grow some veggies. Many schools also have gardens that allow parents to get involved.

Step 2: Try aerobic and strength training

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Once you’ve improved your fitness levels, it’s time to start strength and aerobic training. Resistance training improves muscle strength and increases your muscle mass, while aerobic training helps to boost your cardiovascular health and endurance.

Starting slowly and easing your way into a fitness program is highly recommended, especially if you’re coming off a long spell of inactivity. You can seek the advice of a qualified personal trainer who can help design a training program that meets your specific needs.

One study conducted in 2019 looked at 69 adults who led a sedentary lifestyle. The participants tried both strength and resistance training and found that a combination of both resulted in better overall health and increased longevity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise.

Let’s sum it up

Turning around a sedentary lifestyle isn’t easy, but it is possible. Leading an active lifestyle not only improves your physical and cognitive health but is an integral component of your overall health and longevity.

Remember, the journey to better health starts with a single step, and while it can seem overwhelming when starting, it becomes much easier as you begin to reap the benefits.

Get moving today; your health will thank you for it.

Want to learn more?

In this informative podcast, the world-renowned Dr. Andrew Huberman discusses the real reason people struggle to turn a sedentary lifestyle into an active one. He looks at the role motivation plays and teaches the power of building positive habits and setting goals to get people moving in the right direction.


Healthypedia FAQ

This question depends on several factors specific to each individual. How long have you been inactive? How fit were you before? If you've previously had a good fitness level, getting back into shape can take 6-8 weeks. However, if you're just starting to work out, 3 to 4 months is a much more realistic goal; but remember, fitness and health are lifelong journeys.

One of the easiest ways to get yourself moving is walking. You can take short walks in the morning, at lunch and after dinner. You can park further from the entrance to the shopping mall and walk. Walking is a great exercise because it requires no base fitness, gets you out in the fresh air, and, most importantly, boosts your physical and cognitive health.

One study published in the Journal of Circulation found that performing cardio exercises 4 to 5 times weekly for two years can start to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. It's important to note that although two years seems like a long time, your journey to a healthier you starts with just one step. Take that first step today.

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