The Silent Killer

The human race has evolved so that most of us don’t need to hunt or forage for food, and instead provide for our needs by earning money while working at a desk. But the thing is… the human body is built for movement — it wasn’t meant to be stuck sitting on a chair.

Sadly even in our leisure time, many of us don’t use that time to move our bodies, instead, we spend our nights and weekends not just sitting on a chair, but probably lying in bed or in the sofa. We’ve become a race of couch potatoes.

And this poses serious health risks. WebMD even calls this lack of physical activity a disease — “The Sitting Disease”. And it is a disease that has been spreading steadily through the decades and has now become the leading cause of preventable death, damaging the physical well-being of those who sit for more than 5 hours a day.

Here are a few documented illnesses that are linked to sedentary lifestyles:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Colon cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal disc herniation (Low back pain)

The sitting disease is especially dangerous for diabetics as sustained periods of inactivity can build up insulin resistance in the body, making diabetes even more acute.

Use them or lose them. Inactivity leads to atrophy in bones and muscles, making bones brittle and muscles weak. This in turn causes difficulty or discomfort in movement and leads to further decrease in activity, which further aggravates the situation. And the vicious circle goes on and on.

Not only does a sedentary lifestyle adversely affect the body, but the mind as well. It increases the risk of dementia in older people. Exercise and physical activity stimulate the production of endorphins in the brain, which brings about an overall feeling of well-being. Thus depriving the body of physical activity deprives it of those feel-good neurotransmitters, causing a decline in mood and confidence.

What can you do?

The sitting disease is easily treatable. Just get moving. Get up, even for just a few minutes at a time. Get up from that chair and step away from the computer! Getting on the computer compels you to stop and sit. So if you force yourself to unplug you increase your chances of actually getting some exercise in — even if it’s just walking the dog or doing some shopping.

Once you get up from that chair or that couch, here are some ideas on what you can do with your time.

  • Twist, bend over, stretch. Get those kinks out. That will make your body feel good and make it want more.
  • Dance. With no one watching. As Billy Idol said, “Well there’s nothing to lose and there’s nothing to prove I’ll be dancing with myself.” Try it! Create your own dance playlist and just let go.
  • Go out and do something fun. Take the bike out, or the canoe. Or go learn tennis or scuba diving, and experience the beauty and exhilaration to be found in the analogue world.
  • If you have some vacation time coming up, book yourself a trip out of town or out of the country. There’s nothing like an adventure to get the blood pumping.

There’ll be a lot of resistance within you, and you might find you “don’t wanna” get up. When that happens, just find a way to make yourself do it. Bribe yourself. Reward yourself. Hack your psyche. It may be hard going at first but all it take is that initial grunt and heave to get you started, and hopefully momentum would help get you going.