The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle

Years ago leisure activities included swimming, walking, running and gardening. Most of these have fallen out of favour and have been replaced with mostly sedentary activities that are taking a toll on our waistlines and our hearts. Here are some of the dangers of a mostly sedentary lifestyle.

The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle

The link to obesity

Studies show a direct link between general activity level, weight and the way we burn up calories in the course of a normal day.

Obese people, on average, sit for 150 minutes more each day — using up 350 fewer calories — the equivalent of about 15 kilograms (33 pounds) over a year, given the same food intake.

Researchers have found that even washing dishes or walking about the house or neighbourhood can boost the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) rate — the rate at which the body burns up calories.

Unsurprisingly, thin people are more active, sit less and have a higher NEAT than obese people.

Even pacing around when you're on the phone, instead of sitting down, can boost NEAT. Getting a cordless phone, or using your cell phone, means you can walk or even climb stairs while chatting, to increase your NEAT.

Exercise simply means moving

When you think of exercise, you probably think of structured workouts such as aerobics or Pilates.

You can reap similar rewards with this simple approach to fitness — don't sit when you can stand, and don't stand when you can walk.

The truth is that exercise that fits into your lifestyle can be just as effective as formal exercise routines.

Taking the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator, dancing, gardening, taking the dog for a long walk and playing active games with your children or grandchildren can be just as good for you as more vigorous exercise.

In fact, steady activity over longer periods of time might be better in general since unfit people who put themselves through sudden bursts of exercise can put undue stress on the heart and blood vessels, with negative effects.

Leave limit pushing to athletes

Only trained athletes should regularly push their bodies to the limit. The rest of us are better off increasing activity in everyday life.

Again, small-time investments yield big payoffs. The key is finding active opportunities throughout the day, every day. Once you start looking, just how many minutes in motion you can accumulate will surprise you.

Little ways to get more active

Time-saving devices and services may save us minutes, but they can literally take years off our lives by stealing opportunities to keep our bodies strong and fit.

Use a little muscle instead of a machine with these heart-healthy exchanges:

  • Instead of paying a cleaner to clean your home once a week, do a few hours of your own vacuuming and dusting and have a cleaner come once every two weeks.
  • Rather than driving to the car wash, try washing and waxing your own car.
  • Internet and catalogue shopping are convenient, but walking around your favourite shopping spot can help you get more fit and boost the local economy.
  • Along with installing a burglar alarm, get a dog and walk it each day.
  • Don't just ignore your garden or hire someone else to do everything in it, but mow the lawn or trim the bushes for one hour each week.
  • Part of the convenience of convenience stores is that they're usually close to residential areas — so walk or ride your bike instead of driving to the nearest one.
  • Dishwashers are great, but instead of using yours all the time, try handwashing dishes once or twice a week.
  • Instead of having groceries delivered to your house, go out to gather and carry home your own groceries.

Along with the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle outlined here, remember the little ways you can get more active and you'll be on your way to a healthier, more energetic life.

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