There is some not so good news that has been circulating for quite a while now, that the real silent killer in the world today is our sedentary lifestyles.
Infact, inactivity is causing more deaths than smoking! Sitting on your tusch all day (even if you are super slim) will inevitably give you problems later in life. The good news?……….you don’t have to be rich, slim or young to change the course of your life and the number of years you live!
For many years I considered myself to be ‘active’ I rushed to work, went to meetings, (sat for long periods of time!), got the bus home, prepared dinner, cleaned the house, tidied up after my children and was generally exhausted – so I must have been quite active right?…….Wrong! very,very wrong.
Although I definitely wasn’t lazy – I wasn’t ever really raising my heart rate either, which is crucial in order to get some benefits. Regular exercise (in whatever form that is right for you) promotes better mental health and mood, a boosted immune system and more energy. Weirdly, the more energy you expend the more energy you will have. Exercise and physical activity can also improve memory and mental function.
Now I don’t know about you but my aversion to exercise started in school. You either fell into the sporty, slim popular girls or …….the rest of us! I literally hated P.E, my body looked all wrong, my centre of gravity was somewhere in my feet making jumping almost impossible with my generous backside! I shocked myself and the teachers when I came first at discuss (I put all my weight behind you see and nearly took the teachers head off!) I was good at hockey, but was always goal defense – I see a pattern forming here……
The years go by really quickly and before you know it exercise just falls right down the list of priorities. Working hard trying to have a career, marriage, children, house – there just never seems to be enough time. Nor will there ever be unless you STOP and check just what inactivity is doing to you. There are some stark ways that being sedentary affects our health:
- Obesity – Well, this epidemic is the love child of inactivity and a poor diet and opens up your body to a multitude of other illnesses. Being overweight isn’t the killer per se – its being very overweight and inactive. Unfortunately, obesity is being linked to various types of cancer.
- Type 2 Diabetes – as above, inactivity along with a less than healthy diet has seen a sharp increase in type 2 diabetes, which can sit undetected for quite a while. Diabetes used to be a disease only seen in older people but now it is affecting children. Our children are not moving as much as they used to – too many children are at home playing video games for hours.
- High Blood Pressure – yep, another result of inactivity. Inactivity leads to weight gain and weight gain can lead to high blood pressure. This one scares me particularly as people often have no clue that they have high blood pressure. One of the first treatments that GPs will suggest is to to take some exercise to get systolic blood pressure down.
- Heart Disease – so, as we move less and sit at desks more oh and get stressed out, the arteries that carry the blood to your heart get clogged and damaged risking heart attacks and strokes. So your muscle of a heart is like any other, it needs some exercise to get it pumping nicely.
- Stroke – a neighbour of mine ate a poor diet,was inactive and ate way too much salt – this poor woman had a stroke and can no longer come out of her house – she is in her mid-forties. As the lack of activity and just sitting takes a hold, the blood can’t get to the brain and the result is a stroke. Again the national stroke association recommends regular physical exercise to reduce the risk of stroke.
- Depression – a lack of exercise can also lead to depression or anxiety. Hours spent at a desk or watching hours of tv can leave you 25% more likely to develop depression symptoms.
Now, the above is not cheerful reading but whoever you are, where ever you live – you can prevent all of the above and there doesn’t have to be a bit of lycra in sight 🙂 . A good brisk walk for 30 minutes a day for example (a brisk walk means you can talk but it’s a bit more difficult than normal and you can feel your heart pumping nicely – you are just a bit out of breath) can lift your mood, help with weight management, strengthen bones and muscles and improve coordination and balance – and it doesn’t cost you a penny!
A lot of people like to be socially connected when being active so lots of places have walking groups (which are now socially distanced) that you can join. Cycling also has many benefits and is one of my favourite ways of getting rid of stress and keeping active. I now have leg muscles I never knew I had! It was important for me to enjoy the activity or I knew I wouldn’t stick at it. (i.e. as soon as I think its exercise I don’t want to do it! if I think I am cycling for some fresh air and a mood boost, I love it).
Gardening also does much for activity levels but is used widely for improving mental health and social connection. Weeding, digging, planting and the like makes you active but is secondary to the activity and also gives you a lovely garden or balcony! I don’t have a garden but my balcony is full of flowers and even a little olive tree! Even on large social housing estates some cultures manage to grow their own fruit & vegetables.
Dance is one of the greatest physical activities you can do, especially in old age. Research has proved older people who dance (ballroom etc.) have improved confidence, balance and coordination and are far less likely to suffer from falls. Zumba, salsa and soca dancing are amazing aerobic exercise but the music and the enjoyment are the primary reasons for people joining groups.
I can also recommend the Couch to 5k app which me and my husband have been using during lockdown. It’s perfect for new runners/shufflers! We have sat at the week 2 run for about three weeks now, which is perfect for us, 2 minutes brisk walk, 90 seconds of gentle jogging repeated over 5k- I am beginning to see results in my energy levels and stubborn belly fat! I always feel much better mentally and physically when we are finished.
Physical activity in whatever form you choose is one of the key pillars of a long and healthy life – it does mean swimming upstream against the tide. Our social habits and lifestyles have been shaped for inactivity – you don’t even have to get up to turn the television over anymore! (yes, I remember having to do that) we have reclining seats, food delivered to our doors and can get whatever our hearts desire online. Even if you put on your favourite music, crank it up loud and do vigorous housework for 30 minutes – you are using those muscles and get your heart pumping, keeping those veins unclogged and investing in yourself. Throw in a daily walk or a quick cycle, some gardening or an online class – you are well on the way to a better you!