A sedentary lifestyle involving very little or no physical exercise is spreading worldwide and has become a significant public health issue. The prevalence of insufficient physical activity has been stable at around 27.5% worldwide from 2001 until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, resulting in a further decrease in physical activity. The adoption of this lifestyle is facilitated by the changes in activities related to domestic entertainment, transportation, and occupation. Therefore, incorporating movement into these activities plays an important role in reducing sedentary behavior.
Emergence of lifestyle diseases
Much research associated sedentary behavior with the so-called “lifestyle diseases”, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. To counter this growing health issue, WHO released a physical activity guideline stating that adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150-300 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. If they practice high-intensity physical activities, then the time could be shortened by half.
People often think that moderate or vigorous physical activity means that they need to do some sweat-inducing exercises or high-impact activities. Even though that is true, implementing small movements into daily activities can also help improve overall health. These small movements can be related to daily activities such as doing household chores, commuting (i.e. walking and cycling), and participating in leisure activities (i.e. sports and active recreation).
Improving the body
Body movements that involve exercising the muscles and expending energy, such as walking, can be considered a physical activity. When walking, the whole body uses its bones, joints, and muscles to move which also strengthens each part. It is also good for the repair or growth of these parts of the body since walking increases your heart rate which improves your blood flow, allowing for oxygen and nutrients to flow properly.
Higher quality of the same benefits can be attained by increasing the intensity of activities. You can do activities such as brisk walking, climbing the stairs, sweeping the floor, or slow dancing to further increase the activity of your heart and lung functions. Over time, this will lead to a higher overall endurance of your body.
Higher levels of activity can also be found in other daily movements such as grocery shopping, jogging, and cycling. While pushing a cart, carrying bags, and loading up your trunk can strengthen your muscles, jogging and cycling also offer the same benefit with the addition of improving heart health and metabolism, hence preventing obesity. By practicing these simple exercises regularly, your body will eventually familiarize itself with the movements which will help reduce the risk of having joint injuries.
Improving the mind
Household chores include a wide range of tasks – from washing dishes to organizing the laundry – which combines both physical and mental activity. A 2021 study by Noah Koblinsky et al. found that engaging in household physical activity can enhance mental abilities, including learning, problem-solving, and decision-making. It also offers protection against brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, affecting a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Furthermore, moderate-intensity activities can also influence the production of happy hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. If endorphins act as painkillers that trigger positive feelings, dopamine acts as a reward allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Apart from this type of activity, meditative movements including qigong, tai chi, and some forms of yoga can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety leading to a feeling of well-being. By changing your body posture, breathing, and rhythm, people can change the overall activity level of the brain.
Furthermore, doing these simple movements alongside others has additional benefits such as improving self-esteem and cooperation with others. As William McNeill (1995) once wrote about his observations on muscular bonding, “moving briskly and keeping in time was enough to make us feel good about ourselves, satisfied to be moving together, and vaguely pleased with the world at large.” Muscular bonding can also be done through aligning movement with others temporarily which is also known as a synchronized movement. Synchronizing footsteps with friends, clapping hands together when watching a concert, and coordinating dance movements are some examples of synchronized movement.
Lifestyle disease due to sedentarism is considered a major public health issue these last few years. To curb this problem, engagement in physical activity has been proven to help gain back a more active, healthier way to live. This also includes movements in household chores, commuting, and leisure activity. As mind and body are intimately connected, movement is not only beneficial for the body but can also affect the way people think and feel.
For more in-depth content on the sedentary lifestyle, the Life Management Science Labs’ (LMSL) Personal Resilience Science Labs features courses, certifications, videos, podcasts, and more. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science and packages it into interactive and insightful learning materials. Visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.Photo by Andy on Pexels