We are more sedentary than ever before thanks to the worldwide COVID-19 Pandemic. Being more sedentary leads to a higher risk of disease (including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and lung cancer) and death.
A timely study published in December 2020, from the World Health Organization (WHO) followed 44,000 men and women for 10 years. Those who were sedentary for 10 or more hours a day had a much higher risk of death.
There was good news from this WHO study as well! There is a simple solution to counteract the increased risk of death and other diseases associated with being sedentary. You guessed it; it is to move or exercise. The WHO study also recommended guidelines to increase activity. For people 18 and over, the minimum weekly physical activity threshold should be 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Here are examples of moderate intensity exercise from the American Heart Association:
- brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour)
- water aerobics
- dancing (ballroom or social)
- tennis (doubles)
- biking slower than 10 miles per hour
Here are examples of vigorous intensity exercise:
- hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
- swimming laps
- aerobic dancing
- heavy yardwork like continuous digging or hoeing
- tennis (singles)
- cycling 10 miles per hour or faster
- jumping rope
Even 10 minutes or less of activity several times a day have a cumulative benefit and can provide significant health benefits. This could include taking a short walk around you house or workspace once every hour or two or using commercial breaks to do light exercises.
Here are some of the big wins of meeting the minimum exercise according to the American Heart Association:
- Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
- Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
- Improved cognition, including memory, attention and processing speed
- Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions
- Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
- Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being
Don’t forget your kids who are also probably more sedentary during the pandemic! The WHO Guidelines presents evidence that physical activity in 5-17 years old “is associated with improved physical, mental and cognitive health outcomes. Many of the benefits of physical activity are observed with an average of 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily, although physical activity beyond 60 min of MVPA daily provide additional health benefits.”
So what are you waiting for? Finish reading this blog and get moving! Start with a short walk if you feel out of shape. Ramp up slowly. Listen to your body. Move and stay healthy!
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