Why 30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Isn’t Enough
But if you spend a lot of time being sedentary—basically just sitting around—you could be undoing all the gains you get from these types of intense workout programs.
If you’re like most people, you don’t even realize how much time you sit during the day—watching TV, eating meals, driving to work or commuting by train, having a few drinks with your friends, or surfing the Internet.
Recent research has showed that this type of inactivity can put you at risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. One study in the journal BMJ Open also found that if everyone in the United States spent less time sitting, we’d live about 2 years longer.
This downside of sitting is true even if you workout regularly, even with intense programs like Shaun T.’s INSANITY. So being a couch potato before and after your workout is a surefire way to damage your health.
Sitting Is the New Lifestyle
There was a time when people were rarely inactive for long periods. You were constantly on the move, finding food, building shelter, fighting off wild animals. Now, we watch other people doing all that stuff on television
According to the Nielsen Organization—the trackers of our TV habits—the typical American watches more than 150 hours of television each month … yes, each month. Added to this is the 27 hours spent surfing online, plus the seven hours of watching a TiVo or DVR.
Maybe this is part of the reason Americans have an obesity problem.
Even worse, along with our habit of sitting comes a habit of eating poorly. Mindless snacking increases when you watch TV—that handful of potato chips quickly becomes a whole bag. People are also less likely to eat healthy snacks—like fresh fruits and vegetables—when they’re channel surfing.
Breaking the Habit of Inactivity
There’s a lot of sitting that you just can’t get away from, especially if you drive to work, or spend most of the day in an office chair. To balance it out, you need to throw more movement into your life (on top of your regular high-intensity workouts).
Here are seven ways to break free of the sedentary lifestyle and stay healthy longer.
Reduce your screen time. Take a look at how much time you spend sitting while watching TV, surfing the Internet, or checking your smartphone. Cutting back on screen time can help you become more active. Try giving yourself a screen allowance, and go for a walk or bike ride instead of sitting on the couch.
Add more movement to your commute. Try biking to work instead of driving. If you have a long commute and biking doesn’t work, get off the subway a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. If you ride the train, stand instead of sitting.
Move more at work. If you work in an office, you’re likely to spend at least 40 hours a week sitting, enough to wipe out those gains from your early morning exercise. But no one says you have to sit while working at the computer. Many companies now make stand-up workstations; some even come with treadmills. If your boss isn’t really into that, break up your day by walking to the printer or to your colleagues’ offices.
Walk while you talk. Turn all the time you spend talking with your family and friends on the phone into physical activity. Instead of lounging on the couch while you chat, put on your headset and head outside for a long walk. People passing by may think you’re strange for talking to yourself, but you’ll always have lots to share with your friends about your walk.
Be active while watching television. Sitting while watching television is old school. First, ditch the remote and get up every time you change the channels. Walk away—around the room or up and down the starts—during commercials. Watch TV while on a treadmill or exercycle. Do chores like cleaning the living room or ironing your clothes.
Get active with your friends. Instead of heading right to the bar or restaurant after work, trying connecting with your friends while staying active. Go for a walk in the park or play a pick-up game of basketball or ultimate frisbee. You can always catch a quick beer after the game.
Act more like a kid. If you watch children, they are rarely inactive for long—jumping from the couch to run outside for five minutes, zipping here and there on the playground. You can pick up some of their good habits in order to stay active. When you’ve been sitting for a long time, reconnect with your inner child and head outside. If you have to, set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move.