How to Keep Healthy With a Sedentary Lifestyle
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
A sedentary lifestyle is characterized with a low amount of exercise. In other words it's a term used to describe the lifestyle of people who don't work out a lot and spend a lot of time at a chair, on a couch, or in a bed.
Why Is a Sedentary Lifestyle Bad?
I shouldn't have to answer this question for most people but there are some who never had this explained. The human body needs movement. It keeps our metabolism high, our fat stores low, our blood pumping, our muscles toned, and our organs functional.
Living a sedentary lifestyle is like depriving your body of its favorite method of keeping healthy. Since your body cannot get rid of the excess energy it will store it as fat. This can clog your arteries, lead to high blood pressure, and cause a significant decrease in your life expectancy.
Why Are People Trapped in a Sedentary Lifestyle?
So maybe you don't live a sedentary lifestyle. Great! But you're curious about why not everyone can be like you and get the required amount of exercise. Well there are a number of reasons.
The major one is work. I'm currently in the field of accounting and as someone who worked at a tax firm during tax season let me tell you, 80 hour work weeks don't provide a lot of time on the clock to get a good amount of exercise. A lot of people have to live with this type of constraint, and for a lot longer than I did.
Another is hobby. I'm an avid game addict and like most of my species, yes we're still convinced we are a separate species, I spend most of my leisure time in front of a computer or a television playing games. Some gaming companies have attempted to make video games that aren't so unhealthy to enjoy, but they've been largely unsuccessful at this.
Finally we come to disability. There are simply people who have physical or mental conditions that force them to remain sedentary such as a poor heart or weak bones. These people don't exactly have a choice for their lifestyle.
See Where You Stand
What type of sedentary lifestyle do you lead?
A Healthy Sedentary Life Starts With Your Food
The source of a lot of your risks of sedentary lifestyle comes from what you put in your mouth. After all you'll get out what you put in.
In today's world there are a number of sources of great tasting and efficient energy in the form of fast food, pizza, and similar restaurants. That's wonderful! As long as you spend about 12 hours a day doing endurance running. For the rest of us this is a terrifying poison that gives us too much energy we can't burn off. When the energy can't be burned our body does what it's programmed to do. It stores the energy as fat. I don't think I need to remind you of the health effects of obesity.
Now I'm not saying you have to make a move over to those healthy foods that taste like cardboard and craft glue. Frankly, just cutting fast food out of your diet and replacing it with a deli style turkey sandwich, something anyone can make, will probably have a massive impact by itself. If it's not enough you can always do a simple search for "Healthy Foods that Taste Good". You might be surprised at the number of ways you can cook and store sweet potatoes and even use them as a snack instead of that bag of high sodium chips.
"No Artificial Preservatives" Huh?
Have you heard that tagline? "No Artificial Preservatives". A lot of food items these days have that tagline plastered everywhere they think someone might check.
Now you're probably wondering why this is an issue. Well the answer is simple, the food items that have this label still contain preservatives. Did you know that the FDA does not consider salt to be a preservative? The oldest and most unhealthy preservative in history? Guess what these companies are putting in your food. Guess what kind of nasty health problems high sodium causes.
Unfortunately, every supplier has switched to this catchy little phrase so it might be better to just get in the habit of checking the sodium content of your food. Remember you'll need to consume about twice that amount of potassium to balance it out!
See Where You Stand!
How Often Do You Eat Fast Food?
Use Your Nervous Ticks
Everyone has a nervous tick, something they do to release pent up energy. For me and a lot of individuals it's biting your nails, fingers, or chewing gum. But why let it just be a nervous tick when you can harness it into an energy-burning habit?
The next time you catch yourself at your usual nervous tick try and divert that energy to your feet. Tap your shoes on the ground, move your legs around your chair, shake your knee, or do something else with your feet. It may not seem like it, but these little actions are using the muscles and nerves of your legs and pushing blood through some of the most difficult pathways in your bloodstream. This type of movement can also prevent deep vein thrombosis, but that's a topic for another article.
Grip Exercises Are Great for Sedentary Life
This little thing is my favorite because there are so many variations of exercises you can do with it. If you're living a sedentary lifestyle without a grip trainer of some sort you're doing it wrong! Unless your sedentary lifestyle is caused by something that prevents wrist movement.
Assuming you have full working control of your wrists and fingers I recommend picking up a grip trainer of some type. These little things are small which allow them to be easily stored at a desk, near a bed, or near a couch. The exercise motions are quick which allow you to easily train up during a commercial break or while you're waiting for something at the office. Furthermore the muscle groups that these guys work out are the type that quickly recover from exercise so you can do repetitions of these throughout the day without feeling sore or tired!
There's also a decent amount of variety you can get while exercising. You can certainly follow the instructions and simply squeeze and release repeatedly to train your muscles to quickly exert power or you could squeeze and hold to train your muscles in long periods of exercise. Or you could do both on different days to give your muscles a full range of calorie burning exercise!
Also practice with different ways of holding the grip trainer. Maybe try holding it reversed, perhaps a little closer to the metal pieces, or maybe a little farther away. Every variation trains your muscles in new and interesting ways which leads to more toned muscles to burn that energy with.
Just make sure you don't overdo it. If you start to feel a pain in your wrist, stop immediately and wait for it to subside. Otherwise your fingers might be a little too numb to move for about thirty to forty-five minutes.
Desk Cycles Are the Hit Thing for Office Workers
This has a few requirements unfortunately. You obviously can't use this if your sedentary lifestyle takes place on the couch or a bed and it's not something you can use without the full use of your legs. But for office workers and video game addicts alike this is a powerful tool to help fight the impact of a sedentary lifestyle.
The best part about this tool compared to the grip trainer is that your productivity doesn't need to diminish to use it. Once you get used to it being there you can cycle away while going through your daily work routines. Obviously you'll need to move it out of the way if you have a meeting but generally your boss won't mind as long as your performance doesn't drop.
As an avid gamer I can say that the cycle has actually made me play certain games better simply by allowing me to effectively work off the nervous tension and energy. It lets me make more solid decisions and improves my patience. But that's just me.
Chew Sugarless Gum to Curb Your Hunger and Keep Healthy
Okay here's something you can do in your sedentary existence that doesn't require limbs at all. The simple act of constantly chewing gum can be an excellent work-out for your jaw and an outlet for a large amount of nervous energy over a twelve hour day. But it doesn't end there.
For some people the act of chewing actually soothes hunger by tricking their body into thinking that they're eating something. This causes the body to fire up its metabolism and ready the processes that it would usually prepare to turn food into energy. As you can imagine this process itself requires energy, but usually your body would end up acquiring from food more than it burned. In this situation it's just burning!
But you can't skimp on technique just because it's something you do anyway on an almost daily basis. Don't just chew the gum with the back row of teeth! Switch the gum's position in your mouth often to train every muscle in your jaw. The muscles that let you chew with your front teeth are not the same groups as those that let you cut through tough meat with your canines.
Dumbbells Allow Exercise in Many Areas
Whether you're sedentary on the couch, the bed, the desk, or the car, dumbbells are an easy ticket to a fit sedentary lifestyle. There are a host of different workout videos explaining the best use of a dumbbell but really you just need to hold it in your arm and move your arm in different positions for an extended period of time.
Dumbbells are cheap, small, and you can alter the weight to fit your requirements. They can be fit into almost any car, work space, or stored near the couch on the floor. For the beginning burners I recommend holding the dumbbell out in front of you and making a small circle motion for as long as you can before you feel pain. Keep that up in intervals over the day and you'll find yourself resting easy every night!
I also like taking a dumbbell in each hand and making a small breast-stroke motion with them. The range of motion taxes the upper body in its entirety and burns a lot of energy, tiring you out very quickly. This exercise isn't as easily repeatable as the prior exercise as it strains your joints considerably. Don't do too many of these a day!
You can find dumbbells at almost any market that cares variety goods. I don't recommend picking up expensive ones as I've never seen a cheap version break. You shouldn't spend more than a few bucks on dumbbells.
Leg and Ankle Weights Can Combat the Impact of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Leg and ankle weights are specially designed to be worn around your lower leg and open the sedentary individual up to a whole bunch of new methods to expend energy and stay in shape. These useful tools are generally small and easy to store, like dumbbells, but can provide a benefit to your lower body and core instead of just your arms and upper body.
A common leg exercise I like to perform while waiting for a game to load is holding on to the seat of my chair and lifting my legs up while the weights are attached. If you try it you'll notice a straining sensation along your core as this type of exercise pulls at your abs and back muscles. Most people cannot perform this exercise for long periods of time but since it works out muscles that recover quickly it's possible to perform many repetitions in a single day.
If you are bedridden, assuming you have use of your legs, you can place both hands behind your back and lift your legs upward. You should feel the same tug at your abdominal region as the prior exercise but you won't experience the pull around your back muscles. This exercise is a bit more taxing on the body so repeating it more than a few times is not recommended on a daily basis.
My favorite exercise is the one legged version of these two. Trying this out you should notice that the pull occurs along your leg muscles rather than around your core body. This exercise is easily repeatable as your legs are designed to withstand long periods of strain and recover quickly.
Stretches Are a Blessing for a Sedentary Lifestyle
So you're probably thinking that to do something like stretching you'd have to get up and move around, right? Well you're very wrong. There are a multitude of stretches that sedentary individuals can perform even while sitting or laying down.
For the sitting individuals I recommend torso twists. This is where you twist your torso from left to right without twisting your lower body along with it. You can twist your head along with your torso as well if you like though that'll just make you dizzy.
For the laying individual I recommend neck twists. This is where you lift your neck up and move it from left to right, gently. Not only does this provide some great stretching, it'll also build up your neck muscles considerably over time.
Another one for the sitting individual are ankle twists. Just lift your foot off the ground and spin it in a small circular motion along the angle. It'll loosen up the tendons that connect your foot to your leg which can start to hurt if you walk too much.
Finally I'll mention something for everyone, touching your toes. Whether you're laying down or sitting up just reach as far as you can towards your feet. The mere movement alone will stretch out the joins in the back of your leg up to your rear and also loosen up your arms. If nothing else it'll keep the blood pumping and the fat burning.
See Where You Stand!
How much time do you spend stretching each day?
This is just a taste of the options available to you so don't let this be the end. Seek out other solutions for yourself and find out the right choices for you. Just because the world seems to be moving towards a primarily sedentary lifestyle for us humans doesn't mean we can't have what the world wants and our personal health as well! Plenty of products and ideas have popped up to counter this trend. Even then if you can't find anything new you can always modify what I've talked about to suit your personal needs.
Then again you should be modifying exercises as much as possible to work out as many muscle groups as possible. This is especially important for us sedentary folks as we don't get the basic exercise that walking around and moving objects would give in other people's lives.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2016 Michael Ward