America is growing increasingly sedentary. 85% of our adult population is insufficiently active, meaning they’re not meeting even the minimum recommended requirements of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This may surprise some readers because at times it can seem as if health has gotten trendy in the U.S. We’re inundated with fitness influencers sharing social media content, the latest trendy workout gear, and TV ads pitching healthy products. But while these factors can have a positive influence for some it’s not making the intended impact to the greater community.
In 2018 the Physical Activity Guidelines were revised and updated based on new scientific evidence.
2 key changes were made that’s great news for us all.
The first change was the directive to Move More and Sit Less. Evidence proved the health consequences of prolonged uninterrupted sitting cause a cascade of health problems.
The second big change included dropping the 10-minute bout rule. Previous to the update, exercise didn’t “count” unless you accumulated at least 10 minutes of moderate activity at one time. Even trackers like the FitBit did not register activity in smaller bouts. The good news is that newer models now honor and give credit for shorter than 10 min bouts. I was even able to add an update to my Fitbit Charge 3 to include this new feature.
Why have we gotten so sedentary?
This ongoing health crisis is largely to blame. Health writer Jamie Ducharme details in an article on the impact of the pandemic how Americans are now sitting more and moving less rather than moving more and sitting less. Cambridge Open Engage found a 32% decrease in physical activity ever since social distancing measures were implemented. Sitting a lot more, in particular, are work-from-homers — office workers and professionals who are now working at home due to stay-at-home directives.
Time to Move More, Sit Less
There are a lot of ways to start working toward a lifestyle in which you move more and sit less. If you work at a desk — particularly if it’s at home — you might consider investing in a standing desk, described by Pain Free Working as an ergonomic innovation designed to let you switch between sitting down and standing up. The standing desk is a stand-alone piece of equipment that allows you to adjust the desk height and customize it so you’ll be comfortable
You might also consider alternating between a physioball and a chair to encourage more movement. A physioball, because of its inherent instability, invites subtle often unconscious movements to stabilize your spine and keep you upright. I’ve created a short video showing you a few things you can do while seated on a ball at your desk.
You might implement a habit to get up and move around for 3 minutes at the top of every hour. Though it may seem like a small step, evidence shows that interrupting your bouts of sitting decreases the negative effects of being sedentary including your risk of mortality.
More broadly, in your day-to-day life, you can make exercise more of a priority. If you’re not used to it, we at BoneSmart Pilates suggest you start with the art of walking — just one step at a time, progressing gradually until walks become part of your routine. As a former professional dancer, I used to think that walking wasn’t really “exercise”.
I certainly know better now and with my pandemic puppy “Chip”, walking and sometimes eager sprints to get to the park, are a regular part of my daily routine! If you’re familiar with physical activity but struggle to find time for it these days, consider “Habit Integration”. This is a technique I created that I shared in my virtual workshop Life Hacks to Move More Sit Less. Habit Integration helps you seamlessly weave habits you currently do with desired movement habits so your new desired habit is cued by your “I always do this” habit. For instance, while I’m taking a shower I’ll do a corner pec stretch to open up the front of my shoulders and help me hunch less. You’ll find yourself moving more automatically.
Physical activity recommendations
The revised Physical Activity Guidelines of 2018 recommends the following:
• Do at least 150−300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity exercise to get substantial health benefits.
• Do more than 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity for additional health benefits.
• Do muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days a week for additional health benefits (stronger bones, increased strength).
For older adults
• Include balance, aerobic, and muscle-strengthening activities weekly.
• Be as physically active as your condition will allow.
• Exert as much effort as your condition will allow.
Once you apply some of the habit-forming strategies shared in the Move More, Sit Less workshop, you’ll notice positive effects with how you feel, physically and mentally. The more you can incorporate this simple “move more, sit less” mantra into your life, the healthier you’ll become.
Quotes for Motivation
If you need a little nudge to get you started, I encourage you to consider the following inspirational quotes in support of more movement.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Much of our sedentary lifestyle can be chalked up to the need to work. Our world is a very competitive one, and we can trick ourselves into thinking that each minute not spent at the computer means a minute that we’re falling behind. Gandhi’s quote is a reminder, however, that there are truly more important things — namely, health and wellness — rather than the pursuit of material wealth.
“Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the heart.” – Gene Tunney
What a lovely little way to think about the effort to move more. The quote reminds us to consider exercise in a deeper manner, rather than as an inconvenience or obligation.
“You are the architect of your life. It’s never too late. Start now.” -Teresa Maldonado Marchok
Avoid thinking you can’t start fresh. Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Movement enhances life at every single point in our life cycle.
If you’d like to learn more about “Life Hacks to Move More and Sit Less” which is available for on-demand viewing, click here.
Written by Teresa Maldonado Marchok with additional contributions penned exclusively for bonesmartpilates.com by Jorgina Bowen