It is an unfortunate fact that most adults lead sedentary lifestyles in our modern society.
It has been estimated that grown-ups sit through the amazing 10 hours every day.
We work sitting at our desks with our eyes fixed on the computer screen for hours, then we drive back home again sitting in our cars. At home we try to relax by watching television in our favorite armchair or we do browse the social networks, usually indulging in some comfort foods.
Sometimes we can hardly gather enough energy to do our household chores and spend some quality time with our children and at the end of the day we are just too tired to force ourselves to do even go for a walk. And this routine goes on and on for days in a row.
Someone may think that the situation is different with youngsters – don’t they naturally want to to run and play outside, enjoying their imaginative and fun games? Well, it is depressing but true that children also spend approximately 8.5 hours sitting every day.
Their infinitely creative outdoor physical games and activities are slowly but definitely being replaced with often aggressive and unimaginative computer games, only passively occupying their minds but not their bodies. Lack of physical activity poses one of the greatest risks for our health, leading to many diseases.
A recent study has proven that sitting damages our blood vessels
Dr Ali McManus from the Centre for Heart, Lung and Vascular Health at the University of British Columbia was the lead author of the study that was performed with the aim to assess the effect of 3 hours of uninterrupted sitting on the leg arteries.
The results were worrying: the blood vessels were constricted by 33 %, which is a very serious sign having in mind that even a 1 % reduction of the dilation or enlargement in the arteries raises our risk for heart problems.
On the other hand, girls in another group were asked to engage in some kind of movement every 10 minutes and their vascular function was not disrupted.
The doctor has concluded: ‘Our study has shown that three hours of uninterrupted sitting is harmful. We have also shown that interrupting sitting with regular exercise breaks prevents the negative health impact from too much sitting. A modest 10% reduction in sedentary behavior has the potential to reduce direct health care costs by $150 million a year in Canada.’
This study was published in Experimental Physiology.
What are some the consequences of reduced blood flow to the other organs of the body?
- The pancreas has to produce more insulin, which raises the risk for having diabetes
- The brain function is reduced due to the limited oxygen flow
- The digestion is affected negatively, leading to heartburn, bloating, constipation and other problems
- The spine discs are compressed, not receiving enough nutrients from the blood, which can result in back soreness and tension of the neck and spine and degenerative diseases
- Fatty deposits tend to accumulate in the arteries of the heart, which can cause serious problems
- Cancer risk is increased since the elimination of toxins is reduced
- Bones can become weaker, making them susceptible to osteoporosis
Our bodies were designed to be active and moving
According to the World Health Organization, being physically inactive has lethal consequences for approximately 3.2 million people around the world each year.
Did you know that we have around 600 muscles in our body? Muscles are created to perform different activities, not to be still. When we sit, our muscles become inactive and this leads to a great reduction of fat loss. Lipase is an enzyme in our legs that participates in the elimination of fats, and its levels drop quickly when we sit.
How does physical activity benefit our health on a long-term basis?
- We sleep better
- The levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants in our body increase
- We are much less susceptible to depression and negative emotions
- Our mental activity improves
- Our immune system strengthens
- Our muscles and joints become stronger and more endurable
- We become more flexible
- It boosts our metabolism and our bodies burn more fat
- Our blood pressure stabilizes
- Our bodies are able to regulate blood sugar levels more successfully
- The functioning of all our vital organs is improved and stabilized
So, let us get moving to improve and maintain our health. This is important both for us as adults and even more for our children. We should all limit the amount of time spent in front of the TV and computer screen and actively participate in some enjoyable sports and outdoor activities every day.
Even household chores like raking leaves, vacuuming, and mopping can do us a world of good.
If our bodies are healthy, our minds will also be healthy, if we heed an old Latin proverb: “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano”.