How often do you get up off of the couch and get moving? We often hear about how important it is to exercise our bodies regularly, and yet most people live sedentary lives and get very little exercise each day. Technological advances have made it much easier for us to perpetuate a sedentary lifestyle. We now spend much of our time glued to our large screen televisions, computers, mp3 players, cell phones, and video games.
Unfortunately, living a sedentary lifestyle has become a very common problem in the US and around the world. According to the World Health Organization, almost one third of all adults in the world do not get enough daily activity to keep them healthy. In the US, 50% of women and 40% of men are not getting sufficient physical activity.
Only thirty years ago, video games were just being developed and far more people were very active every day. Most children spent much of their free time outside in the backyard playing from the time they got home from school until they had to come inside for homework, dinner, or bedtime. Watching television was a treat, and cable television was not common in most homes. Children participated in activities such as riding bikes, building forts out of sheets in the basement, roller skating in the garage, playing tag, or hide and seek. In the winter they ice skated and went sledding and had snowball fights, made snowmen, and build snow forts.
Now, not only are adults sedentary, but kids are too. And we are all paying the price for spending too much time in a seated position.
Exercise has some very important benefits that we lose when we are sedentary
- It helps to reduce disease. Instances of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and more increase in those who live sedentary lifestyles. We need that activity to keep our heart and other vital organs functioning optimally.
- It boosts the immune system. When you are physically active on a regular basis, you are less prone to getting colds, flu, and other viruses. This is due to the fact that regular exercise stimulates the lymphatic system, which is one of the body’s garbage centers. Unlike the circulatory system that is moved by our heart, the lymphatic system does not have a “pump” to get it going. Only deep breathing and aerobic exercise can move the lymphatic fluid. Viruses, bacteria and other toxins are circulated in lymphatic fluid. If the fluid is not actively circulated so that these toxins can be flushed out, you will ultimately get sick.
- Exercise strengthens and tones muscle. It also helps to strengthen your bones and can help to improve your posture. And it makes your body work more efficiently.
- It reduces stress and keeps depression away. Getting regular exercise releases endorphins which are the feel good chemicals of the brain. People who are moderately active (exercising 3-4 times a week for at least 30-40 minutes) are able to cope with stressful events more easily that those who are inactive. Exercise can also help those who suffer from mild depression. In other words, being active makes you feel good!
- Increases energy levels. When you are active regularly, you will find that your energy levels increase significantly. This is partially due to the release of endorphins and also due to the increase in oxygen levels in the body. You will get rid of that tired, lethargic feeling and get a whole lot more accomplished.
- It keeps the weight down. Obesity is a huge problem in the US and regular exercise can help to keep your weight at a healthy level. This will also help you to avoid obesity related disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
So how much exercise should you get to keep yourself healthy?
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as taking your dog for a brisk walk, going for a bike ride, swimming laps or jogging, each week.
You would need only 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week such as running or high impact aerobic dancing to get the amount of activity you need to keep yourself healthy.
It’s also recommended that you do some strength training at least two days a week to build or maintain muscle.
So, what do you do for exercise? The best bet to get you moving is to find exercises that you really enjoy, which will be great incentive for you to participate. If you love video games, try Wii fit or any equivalent. For those who like to dance, there are danced based video games as well that can keep you active.
Some people enjoy organized exercise classes such as spinning or Zumba classes. There’s also Yoga and Pilates.
Find something that resonates with you and that you feel good doing. The objective is to get you off of the couch, away from the TV or the computer and move your body. You will be healthier for it!