No doubt you’ve heard that we’re all at risk of living “a sedentary life” these days, right? Pretty recently in history, everyone had to spend a good portion of their lives physically active, just in order to visit their friends, pick up groceries from the market, and beat the boredom that comes with sitting around in a house that doesn’t have a TV or computer.
With the massive explosion in technological innovation since the early 20th century or so, everything has changed, and more and more of us are finding more and more excuses to avoid lifting a finger, or leaving the house for anything short of an emergency.
Netflix, YouTube, and online shopping services ranging from grocery stores to that giant of web-based retail – Amazon — have been helping us out in that regard. So have videogames, social media sites, internet forums, and so on.
When all is said and done, there’s a whole world of fun to be found in a life that doesn’t involve much physical activity. But, unsurprisingly, too little physical activity means a guarantee of suffering from all sorts of problems, ranging from health-related, to lifestyle-related.
No one wants to be at an increased risk of death from all causes, heightened risk of depression and anxiety, general-purpose unfitness, or any of that sort of stuff. So, that can mean only one thing: it’s time to get more physically active.
If you, like most people, have been skirting too close to a sedentary life recently, here are some tips for getting more active on a regular basis.
Look into using tools and aids that make active living easier
Sometimes, there are specific things that stop us from living lives as active as the ones we should be living. These can be related to our physical health, but may also be related to simple fashion and lifestyle choices.
Perhaps you got bad eyesight, and that stops you from feeling comfortable about getting outdoors, and getting involved in active sports or other pastimes where your glasses could get in the way or get damaged, or where you might not see as well as you’d like.
In this situation, getting in touch with your optometrist, and seeing whether or not you could get a prescription for contact lenses from a company such as Bausch + Lomb could serve as a major relief and motivating factor in getting you outdoors and active more often.
It may seem like something this “small” wouldn’t have such a large impact. In fact, it’s often these “small” factors that have some of the largest impacts on people’s overall behaviour and sense of confidence.
As it so happens, there are actually other factors at play that are far less “serious” than your choice in eye correction, but that are still likely to be very relevant.
For example, maybe you’ve got a certain “style” and fashion preference, that means you’re always wearing clothes that are completely unsuitable for physical activity? Maybe, for example, the shoes you wear are completely impractical for spontaneously running around in?
As a lot of the benefit of physical activity come from being fairly active throughout the day, changing up these “subtle” factors can make a big difference.
Find opportunities and excuses to stand up and move around more during your working day
“Sitting is the new smoking” went dozens of headlines within the last couple of years, in response to the release of some studies that showed that too much time spent sitting down boosted a person’s risk of death from all causes, as well as all sorts of generally negative health and social outcomes.
One interesting – maybe terrifying – finding of this research was that getting regular low-level doses of physical activity throughout the day, was apparently essential in and of itself.
In other words, people who sat down all day, but then went and did an intense exercise session in the gym later, were not free from the negative consequences of sitting down for too long during the day.
Apparently, the key is really to get up and move around more during the day. For most people, that means finding more excuses to stand up and walk around when at work. The professional recommendation tends to be that you should aim for 5 to 10 minutes spent moving around, for every hour spent sitting down and working at a desk.
So, ask yourself, how can you make this happen in your own working life? For many people, part of the answer has been “standing desks.” By purchasing an adjustable standing desk, you can easily shift between working seated, and working standing up, and can more easily pace and stroll around while grinding away at a task.
Keep in mind, though, alternating between sitting, standing, and moving, seems to be key. Simply standing up all day – perfectly still – also seems to be pretty bad for your health.
Cut out some of the digital distraction from your life, and embrace “high-quality leisure”
The author Cal Newport published a book titled “Digital Minimalism” at the beginning of 2019, which argued, among other things, that the abundance of digital distractions present in the modern world – particularly things like social media – had a negative overall effect on people’s ability to do meaningful work, and live meaningful and active lives.
The book itself isn’t about fitness, moving around physically, or anything like that. It’s mainly about breaking the grip of digital companies and services such as Facebook, so that you can reclaim more of your precious time, and enjoy a more intentional life.
All the same, Newport does go to some pretty significant lengths to argue that once you have eliminated some of those digital distractions from your life (think “endless web surfing”), you need to fill the void left behind with what he calls “high-quality leisure.”
By “high-quality leisure” Newport doesn’t just mean leisure activities that are productive – but specifically, leisure activities there are productive, involve physical activity, and involve observable changes in the physical world.
Examples of high-quality leisure include things like maintaining a garden, building machines, and furniture from scratch, performing various other sorts of DIY tasks, exercising, and things of that nature.
In Newport’s view, this kind of physically active leisure is essential in an age when most of us spend most of our time plugged into virtual, and digital environments. The question here is one of balance, not of hating technology, or trying to turn back the clock. It’s worth keeping in mind that Cal Newport is himself a professor of computer science.
Don’t think so much about “getting fit”, but rather about “physically active pastimes that I enjoy”
A lot of people really don’t like going to the gym, or being physically active, specifically because they think about physical activity in terms of “getting fit”, rather than in terms of “having fun.”
For most people, throughout most of history, “getting fit” or “getting in shape” came as a natural consequence of living their lives.
People “got in shape” by doing hard work on the farm, or by rowing boats, or by chopping wood.
These days, there are many different ways of getting physically active that don’t necessarily have much at all to do with conscious “exercise.”
So, instead of thinking about “fitness routines,” how about you think about “physically active pastimes that I’d enjoy?”
This could mean joining a martial arts class, or a dance class, or going cycling with friends. Just make it interesting, to keep yourself positive about it.