IT is increasingly more common for adults to spend the majority of each day participating in activities that don’t require much in the way of physical activity. For many of us, our job requires us to spend large amounts of time sitting — and our home lives are equally as sedentary.
Although a sedentary lifestyle is commonplace, it is not healthy. In fact, those who continue to live a sedentary life put themselves at risk for serious health consequences.
Consequences of a Sedentary Lifestyle
The truth is, our bodies were built to move. The long term consequences of living a lifestyle of limited physical activity has a devastating potential. Individuals who live a primarily sedentary lifestyle, often referred to as the “sitting disease“, have an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, reports WebMD and other medical experts.
One study found that for each hour of television watched daily (most likely done while sitting), there is an 18 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Similarly, for every two hours of television an individual watches, there is a 14 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The National Center for Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) reports that in individuals who have an inactive lifestyle, there is an increase in bone loss, in addition to an increase in the risk for colon and breast cancer.
On the other hand, in a comparison study of physically active and inactive individuals, those who were physically active realized a 40 percent reduction in cancer mortality, according to NCHPAD. In another study, the Nurses’ Health Study, women were able to cut their risks of heart attack by 50 percent by being physically active for three hours or more weekly.
There are short term consequences of a sedentary lifestyle too. Those who sit for much of their work day can have a hard time concentrating and their work may suffer as a result. Slouching while sitting for prolonged periods of time can place stress on your spinal cord, restricting you from breathing normally. This lessens your ability to concentrate and you lose mental sharpness due to the decreased oxygen delivered to your brain.
Lack of physical activity also plays a role in a healthy immune system, rate of cognitive mental decline, emotional well being, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Health Benefits of Strength Training
Individuals looking to change the future of their health in a positive way can do so by participating in strength training, which has many beneficial effects on the body. Strength training uses resistance to increase muscle strength, size, and endurance. When your muscles work to overcome the repeated resistance, they adapt and becoming stronger.
Your heart is a muscle too, and when you engage in strength training your heart benefits. The stronger the heart muscle, the less strain and beats per minute it takes to pump blood throughout the body. While the normal resting heart rate for adults is in the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute, highly fit individuals and conditioned athletes may have normal resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute. While someone that is sedentary may have a resting heart rate of 75 bpm, a very fit individual would have a heart rate much lower, such as 50 bpm. The lower heart rate means that the heart is working more efficiently, which translate to better oxygen saturation and blood circulation.
Working your muscles for strength or resistance training with free weights, machines, or resistance bands helps you maintain and improve muscle and bone mass. Strength training not only helps you become trim and toned, but helps your body better use oxygen.
In a study published in the journal Nature, University of Texas researchers discovered that exercise induced an autophagy cellular process that aids cells in more efficiently removing and recycling the body’s waste products, and ultimately using them more effectively as energy. When you engage in exercise, the tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, widen, which enables them to carry away more waste products and deliver more oxygen, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Further, muscle uses more energy, even when at rest, than fat. So, by having increased muscle mass, you have a higher metabolic rate. This translates to more calories burned, even at rest.
Other many health benefits of strength training, include:
- Long term participation in a strength training routine can slow down bone loss, or osteoporosis, in aging adults. Additionally, there is recent research which supports the idea that strength training can actually help to rebuild bones.
- Weight training can help to maintain weight and can also aid in weight loss in overweight or obese individuals. Building muscles actually makes your body better at burning calories, according to WebMD.
- Regular exercise is linked with a decreased risk of developing many chronic conditions including heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and stroke, according to WebMD.
- If you have already been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity, regular strength training can help you to manage the symptoms and the long-term effects of these conditions. For example, physical exercise can reduce triglycerides, increase HDL (good cholesterol), and reduce blood pressure, as well as help your body better manage its blood glucose levels and insulin production.
- As adults age, it is normal to begin experiencing muscle loss and a decrease in joint flexibility. However, strength training has been shown to slow down the naturally occurring processes of muscle loss and reduction in joint flexibility, according to Forbes.
Living a sedentary lifestyle can have serious negative effects on your health. The good news is that you have the power to change your health. Engaging in regular strength training can play a role in reversing the damage being done to your body by an inactive lifestyle.
Starting a strength training routine may feel overwhelming for beginners, but with your dedication, commitment, and the help of a certified personal trainer to assist you, you can begin your journey to a healthier and longer life.