Sitting seriously hinders your cardiovascular health
We’ve all heard that to be well, we need to take care of our cardiovascular health first and foremost. While jogging before work and having a clean diet does wonders for our heart, there’s an invisible enemy that threatens our cardiovascular health every day, and that is the simple everyday act of sitting.
The average American adult spends six and a half hours sitting every day. Moreover, teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 sit for as long as eight full hours daily. While being sedentary for such large periods may seem like the norm, it is in fact a ticking time bomb. Prolonged periods of sitting are correlated to a higher chance of cardiovascular disease due to obesity and diabetes.
The results are in and too much sitting leads to poor heart health
Harvard Health analyzed the results of 47 studies focused on the connection between a sedentary lifestyle and cardiovascular disease. The team of scientists concluded that people who sat for hours on end, even if they exercised regularly throughout the week, had a much higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. While sitting itself did not miraculously cause heart disease, it was linked to a host of lifestyle habits that brought the illness on to healthy people.
According to the American Heart Association, increased screen time, be it for work or outside of your nine to five, directly leads to obesity due to the excess consumption of calories. Regardless of whether you eat too much spinach and turkey sandwiches or a greasy meal like pizza, a surplus of calories leads to the production of too much glucose that your body can’t break down because you aren’t moving enough. The unprocessed glucose can trigger diabetes and obesity, which in turn negatively affects your cardiovascular health.
In the United States, adults older than 60 face the highest risk of cardiovascular illness as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. That said, younger folks aren’t immune. The study by AHA also noted that women appear to spend more hours in a sedentary position than men before age 30, which ends up causing cardiovascular problems later on.
The key to preserving your health, experts advise, is to learn that sitting too much and exercising are two completely different things. Even if you spend an hour a day doing CrossFit but sit for eight or more hours, you are still at risk of developing cardiovascular issues.
Exercising can dramatically improve your cardiovascular health
When it comes to cardiovascular health, experts advise that we spend at least 150 minutes a week jogging, biking, or doing any physical activity that would get our “heart rate up.” The logic here is simple. Your heart is a muscle, and just like your legs or abdominals, regularly challenging your body will strengthen that muscle. If you don’t move, however, your heart will become weak and more prone to illness.
In fact, exercise like jumping rope, running, biking, or briskly walking lowers your levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, also referred to as “bad cholesterol,” and supports your heart. This is precisely why the type of physical activity is referred to as “cardio,” a short form of “cardiovascular.”
Whenever you perform cardio and your heart rate goes up, your metabolism increases, too. What that means is that the faster you move, the more vigorously your body works to sweat and excrete toxins in liquid form as well as produce energy. When you exercise regularly, your metabolism becomes naturally faster and that helps you burn more calories, which keeps you leaner.
The leaner your body is, the easier it is for your heart to pump out blood and work smoothly as it doesn’t have to cater to any excess weight. While exercise is extremely healthy for your heart, it wins only half the battle against cardiovascular disease.
Limit the number of hours you spend sitting each day
There is a big difference between exercising and “being active.” While you may spend 30 minutes to an hour daily performing some form of exercise, being active means continuously moving throughout the day. An active person, for example, is not someone who rides a Peloton bike for an hour before work and then spends ten hours a day sitting at the office and watching TV at home.
An active person is someone who performs short intervals of activity all day long. For example, this can mean that you wake up and exercise for 20 minutes. Then, instead of driving to work, you bike or walk. At the office, you may spend two hours in a chair, get up and walk for five minutes, or do 20 squats before returning to work. Overall, it’s better to get up from your desk and walk for ten minutes every two hours as opposed to biking for 40 minutes once a day at the gym.
Tips on becoming more active
Becoming active requires dedication. There’s no way around it. The winning strategy here is to carefully plan out your day and see where you can incorporate movement. Walk or bike to work instead of taking public transportation or an Uber.
At work, perform 20 squats in your office every two hours or so, or if possible, go up and down the stairs. If you need to make phone calls, do those while walking around or at least standing up. Scientists have found that standing up burns 30% more calories than sitting down. If you can get a standing desk, adding activity to your day will be much easier.
Use your lunch break to walk around the block. On your way home, try to bike or walk again whenever possible. When you get home, don’t just park yourself in front of the TV. Help your family make dinner, stretch, and take your kids or pets out. Enjoy a brisk after-dinner walk and another stretch before bed.
Making those small adjustments can greatly benefit your cardiovascular health. You’ll be active in no time and will not have to worry about heart disease.