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  • Writer's pictureJackie

Sedentary? That’s Dangerous

Why You Should Get Up and Move, especially during a pandemic

Until fairly recently in modern history, people never had to rely on “exercise routines” to stay fit. My mom’s entire family, having lived in the Bronx, walked everywhere and worked on their feet. Rumor has it they slept standing up. If you come from a farming tradition, the same is true, right? 30 years ago, as a young communications director & writer, I became one of the first in our family to have a job where I SAT A LOT. (In part, sitting drove my decision, 10 years ago, to combine an active career in personal training/health coaching with my freelance life.) As the years have passed, do you feel it, too, though? An increasing inertia, called “sedentary lifestyle,” that seems to have taken over society? It’s like a kind of slow-creeping lava which, one by one, is cementing us in place.

The Alarming Connections Between Sitting, Obesity & COVID

And guess what: the current pandemic is breeding yet more inertia. First of all, many, many people are postponing trips to the gym until well into the future. Some are attempting to exercise at home or outdoors (and with cold weather coming to the Northeast, the latter will only become more challenging). In general, it seems that physical activity has dropped. A July study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco revealed a 5.5% global decrease in average daily steps, immediately after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on March 11. A month later, average daily steps free fell another 27.3%.

In addition, pre-pandemic, the American Heart Association reported that sedentary jobs had already increased 83% since 1950. How many Americans, now suddenly working at home, are moving even LESS as they no longer need to commute, walk parking lots, and take stairs to an office? Because inactivity raises risk of obesity, becoming a couch potato now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a truly BAD idea. Why?

According to the CDC, obesity worsens a person’s outcomes from COVID. The CDC website lists the following alarming facts:

• Having obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

• Having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection.

• Obesity is linked to impaired immune function.

• Obesity decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult.

• As BMI increases, the risk of death from COVID-19 increases.

• Studies have demonstrated that obesity may be linked to lower vaccine responses for numerous diseases.

Pandemic or Not, Inactivity Threatens Health

Setting COVID aside (if that’s even possible), a sedentary lifestyle sets us up for an even more vast array of dangerous health situations. Just think about it, when we stop moving for extended spans of time, we burn less calories, gain fat, lose muscle mass, and surrender bone density—a recipe for a potential health disaster. Physical activity should be toward the top of EVERYONE’S habit list because skipping it raises your risk of falling into the following quagmire of health conditions:

Obesity (as already highlighted)

Heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack

High blood pressure

High cholesterol


Metabolic syndrome

Type 2 diabetes

Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers

Osteoporosis and falls

Increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

What to do?

The solution may be simpler and less overwhelming than we think. A recent study shows that simply exercising for 30 minutes a day can counter the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. That’s an episode of a favorite show or roughly 8-10 songs from a kickin’ playlist. That’s less time than a teeth cleaning, than a laundry cycle, than dinner prep (assuming you cook). For goodness sake, it’s 2 percent of the day! And the recommendation does not say you need 30 minutes of heart-pounding, sweaty, athletic effort. No, a half hour brisk walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood fits the bill. Obviously, this alone will not eradicate obesity, but exercise powerfully supports health.

So, why DON'T we take that half hour a day to exercise? First of all, while an occasional news story pops up, we can easily remain unaware of the very real, dire risk we’re taking when we stop moving. But beyond that, we get tangled up in lots of reasons. Lots of people think they have no time (again, you only need half an hour!) or no place to do it. People also often claim that stress keeps them from exercising. And although it has negatively impacted Americans for a good long time, it’s safe to argue that stress has ballooned into a plague during this pandemic. What do most of us do for relief when stressed? Eat? Sleep? Tune out with a device? Ironically, exercise serves as one of the most effective stress diffusing strategies out there. Getting motivated is TOUGH right now, but maybe the facts in this post will help spur us to get up and GO every day.

Bottom line: A body in motion stays in motion. More literally, a body in motion raises its odds of staying alive. Especially now.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels


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