Study on Activity Levels Surprised Even Us

A new study out of the Washington University School of Medicine warns of the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and concludes that Americans are still not doing enough to increase their daily activity. In fact, data concerning daily physical activity found time spent sitting has increased even more for individuals of all ages.

We took a close look at the data to learn just how much inactivity has increased in order to glean some advice on making better choices moving forward.

Apparently, Americans of all ages spent more time sitting in 2016 than they had previous years. This is problematic as a sedentary lifestyle has been connected with an increased risk of chronic disease and decreased mental health. Lifestyle changes, such as adding movement to a commute or taking regular breaks at work, are small adjustments that can add more movement to the day.


How Much Are Americans Sitting?

Published in April of this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study examined data provided by 51,000 individuals. Survey participants included children, teens, adults and seniors. Researchers looked closely at how much time was being spent sitting each day.

The results were discouraging, with daily sedentary time increasing for adults from 5.5 to 6.5 hours each day. The time teenagers spend sitting also increased dramatically between 2007 and 2016, from seven hours per day to eight.


The Health Consequences of Being Inactive

Movement is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Daily inactivity is linked to many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and more. The good news is, that researchers have also linked a highly active lifestyle to reduced cancer risk, specifically for breast, colon and endometrial cancers.

Moreover, without adequate exercise, it’s common to also experience mental health decline. For example, a 2018 study published in the journal Health Psychology Open observed a strong correlation between physical activity and mental wellbeing, including a significant increase in mental health for those who made the switch from being very sedentary to engaging in daily exercise.

These are findings we all need to take seriously. So how can we integrate this knowledge into our lives?


How to Make Movement a Part of Daily Life

Getting more active may require systemic change. In a culture where desk jobs are the norm and school children spend much of their time behind desks, inactivity is easy — almost the default. That being said, Americans can take intentional action to stay active all day long even when their lifestyle seems to combat that choice.

Changes can be made during each hour of the day to introduce small bursts of activity. Here are some practical ways to move more:

  • Walk to work. While many workers cannot walk from their house to the office, most can add a little walking to their commute. Parking further away from the office or opting to walk to a bus stop instead of driving to work adds movement in a feasible way.
  • Set an alarm for hourly breaks. The work day is busy, but a few minutes spent walking around the office each hour can really add up. Touch your toes, do some squats in the cubicle, or move up and down the stairs if you can.
  • Invest in a standing desk. While standing at a computer may not break a sweat, it is still an improvement from sitting all day. Ask your company to help pay for it if that’s an option.
  • Set technology limits. The study noted that many Americans are spending more than an hour of their free time behind a screen each day. Create rules about technology (and especially social media) to free up more time for movement. Get outside after dinner and walk, or do a little yard work.
  • Join a group or club. If a lack of accountability keeps you from moving, find a group of individuals with similar goals. Treat meetups like an appointment that can’t be missed — your body will thank you!

Creating new habits isn’t easy. Be encouraged by each small improvement and lifestyle change. Little adjustments add up over time. Celebrate each win as a way of encouraging yourself to keep taking care of your health with more daily exercise.

6/6/2019 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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