Spending the day relaxed on your couch, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show isn’t always a bad thing … unless it becomes your norm. Or perhaps you don’t even watch TV, but find yourself fairly inactive, spending more time sitting at home, work, or in your car rather than being active.
Research has shown that many adults in the U.S. spend 70 percent or more of their waking hours sitting. Couple this with the fact that less than 5 percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and that the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels of solid fats, added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat—and you have a disaster waiting to happen.
Instead of trying to find motivation to get active by telling yourself that it’s “wrong” or “lazy” or that you need to “try harder,” take a step back and truly understand the long-term negative effects of being sedentary, and the toll that can take on your mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and social life. Getting active might just save your life.
1. Mental Clarity
Living a sedentary lifestyle usually equates to a lack of physical activity. While you may think that being a couch potato only has an effect on your physical health, it can actually harm your cognitive abilities as well. According to Harvard Health, researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. In order to keep your mind sharp for years to come, try staying active.
This doesn’t mean you need to go from the couch to a marathon (although there are programs that can help with that), but you can start with basic exercises that will get your heart and sweat glands pumping:
- Stair Climbing
And if you’re pressed for time, use your household activities to your advantage. Try doing chores a little faster and more intensely, like floor mopping your kitchen in less than five minutes or raking leaves with a backpack filled with books.
2. Emotional Balance
Life is going to send you curve balls. If you don’t have stable mental health, then you’re more prone to following the whims of your emotions, which are healthy to experience, but not healthy to follow blindly.
Research shows that physical activity is associated with benefits in the prevention and control of emotional distress as well as improvement of self-esteem. By staying emotionally balanced, you will be able to better deal with any circumstance that might come your way, and more present and supportive to other people, which in itself can have healing powers.
3. Physical Health
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of problems, and most significantly (this probably comes as no surprise) a decline in your physical health. There have been many studies conducted on the link between being active and long-term health. Research shows that regular physical activity can help prevent several chronic diseases including:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Premature Death
By maintaining your physical health, you will be in a better position to enjoy the things you love most in life, like spending time with your loved ones, watching sunsets over the ocean, or adventuring through the mountains. If you commit to being physically active, your body is in a better position to not succumb to life-debilitating diseases.
4. Deepen Relationships
Life is meant to be enjoyed with others. Research suggests that social interaction can actually improve your health. Being isolated can lead to illness (especially in older adults), while loneliness can have physical effects like elevated systolic blood pressure. If you’re cooped up all day, you’re less likely to interact with other people. Get out there and connect with others in a meaningful way.
You can always start small by going to a local coffee shop and getting to know the baristas. Then, perhaps you organize meals with old friends or join an affinity group where you have a common interest with others. Even better, connect with friends over walks, runs, hikes, or other workouts. Having a workout buddy to hold you accountable not only makes you less likely to skip your workout but makes getting exercise far more enjoyable.
Regardless of how you do it, connecting with people requires you to get off your couch.
5. Creativity Boost
Whether you view yourself as a “creative” or not, there is creativity within you. It’s what makes you choose how to live your every day. There is a unique way you do things and innovation in creating your own path. Thinking of new ways to approach life, however, can become stifled by a sedentary lifestyle.
Unleash your creativity by getting active. Physical movement can help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration. More specifically, research shows that exercise can help with divergent and convergent thinking—two different cognitive approaches to finding answers and problem solving. By getting up and moving about, you’re able to help your brain think in new ways and see the world differently.
There are many reasons to not succumb to a sedentary lifestyle. Life offers so much to enjoy and is truly a gift. Take advantage of it and live a life of adventure, wonder, and fulfillment. No one ever wishes they watched more TV or sat around unengaged. Take charge of your health, and become active for your own sake. You won’t regret it.