Avoiding the Sedentary Lifestyle in Quarantine
A sedentary lifestyle involves little to no physical activity, with most of one’s time spent socializing, consuming food and media, or browsing a smartphone. While it is important to rest on occasion, the negative risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle are worth considering. Studies have shown that obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer are all possible outcomes from living a sedentary life. In addition, the psychological impact increases the risk of developing a mental health disorder such as depression. There is already enough tragedy in the current state of the world, so it certainly doesn’t help the psyche to live a depressing lifestyle.
If you’re like me and have spent a considerable portion of the last twelve months sitting around indoors, consider this your wake up call. When the pandemic started it was easy to justify staying in for such long periods of time, especially because everybody assumed it would end sooner rather than later. As I sit in my tiny dorm room almost a year later, preparing for a mixture of online and in-person classes, it is tough to come to terms with the sedentary lifestyle I have developed. With a deadly pathogen ravaging through our country, there are many valid excuses as to why someone wouldn’t want to leave their apartment. No wonder we choose to stay inside where it’s cozy and safe! As we approach the one-year mark in America, however, it has become clear that the pandemic isn’t ending ‘sooner.’ Whichever lifestyle we adopted to get us through the temporary qualms of the pandemic has now become more of a permanent fixture, and with no end in sight, the time is now to adopt a more sustainable, long-term quarantine solution. Further, it is not enough to simply increase one’s physical activity; one must also decrease one’s sedentariness.
Here are some actions I took to immediately lift myself out of the sedentary trap. They are suitable for everyone, including those living in dense urban areas.
- Stand up more frequently. Whether you convert your sitting desk to a standing desk, start a new walking routine, or simply remind yourself to stand up every thirty minutes, it is crucial that one does not remain seated for extended periods of time. When given the option to sit or stand, take the standing option.
- Consume less media. Watching TV is a great way of living vicariously through others, which is something a lot of us need to get through quarantine. Some options are to watch TV only while working out, reward yourself with TV for healthy behaviors, or implement time limits on all types of media devices and platforms, including TikTok. If cutting down on media is not something you are willing to do, at least consider cutting down on commercials and advertisements. Every time your show goes to a commercial break, or an ad pops up on the feed, take a break and walk around the room for a bit. There’s no reason to waste time watching advertisements, especially if they’re contributing to your sedentary lifestyle.
- Walk places. If you ever find yourself in an extreme moment of quarantine loneliness, it can help to take a walk in fresh air. With a lot of restaurants and businesses closed, it may not seem like there is any worthwhile destination, but consider this: walks don’t need to have a point B. Take a looping stroll around a pond, or find the nearest hiking trail. If you’re in a dorm, use a treadmill or exercise bike. If you’re in or near a city, consider walking to the grocery store or local takeout restaurant. It’s convenient to have a car, but there is no obligation to use it for every journey, especially the short ones.
- Start a workout routine. By combining cardio workouts with weight training one’s overall health will dramatically improve. Purchase two dumbbells and a pull-up bar to build your very own home-gym. Run or bike consistently, and set aside at least a day per week for weights. Any time you find yourself slipping into sedentariness, get up and do a few curls. Yoga is a great way of staying active without intense physical exertion, and it will help counter many of the negative effects of sitting for long periods. Plus, the breathing and stretching exercises are known to improve overall mood, which can help keep depression at bay.
A lifestyle is the way in which we conduct our entire lives. Changing it thus requires shifting habits across the board, including habits to which we have grown deeply accustomed. It is not a simple task to dramatically change one’s lifestyle, but it is a necessary step toward living a long, healthy life.