When it comes to lifestyle and health, we sometimes over-index on exercise while ignoring the role of physical activity. We actively encourage 150 minutes a week as being the right starting dose for exercise but we often neglect to emphasize the importance of activity, or the deleterious effect of sedentary behaviors.
From a health perspective, exercise and activity are different and complementary. They are the two sides of the MOVE pillar - each contributing different, synergistic benefits to your overall health.
But first, what’s the difference between movement and exercise? (as defined by the World Health Organization)
Independent of exercise, physical inactivity or sedentary behaviour is recognized as one of the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases and death worldwide.
For individuals, the failure to enjoy adequate levels of physical activity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), cancer, and diabetes by 20–30% and shortens lifespan by 3–5 years.
Sedentary behaviour, cardiovascular and metabolic health
Sedentary behaviour negatively affects the way our bodies process the two major energy sources from our diets: fat and glucose.
Even short periods of sedentary behaviour decreases our body’s ability to both use and store fat. Being inactive decreases levels of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) the enzyme that facilitates the uptake of fat into muscle and adipose tissue.
Similarly, sedentary behaviour has been shown to decrease the expression and concentration of glucose receptors in muscle.
These combined effects make lack of activity a particularly potent risk for both cardiovascular and metabolic risk.
Hamburg et al. (2007) took 22 adult volunteers and had them remain in bed for 23.5 hrs per day for 5 days. At the end of the study - despite no change in weight they experience significant disruption of important cardio-metabolic biomarkers - increased cholesterol, increased triglycerides, higher glucose, and signs of insulin resistance, the process underlying Type II Diabetes. In fact when challenged with glucose their body’s had to release 67% more insulin in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
In short - being sedentary rapidly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Being sedentary, decreases vascular function independently of the effects on cardiometabolic risk factors with apparent effects on endothelial dysfunction.
Multiple studies have shown links between sedentary lifestyle and increased cancer risk specifically for colon, endometrial, ovarian and breast.
It has been well documented that lack of activity leads to decreased bone mineral density and the corresponding increase in the risk of fracture from the development of osteoporosis.
In young healthy men, 12 weeks of bedrest can decrease bone density by 1-4%
Mental Health & Psychosocial Well-being
Physically active people have higher physical and mental quality of life as well as self esteem. Whether this is due to the increase of physical activity or the reduction of sedentary lifestyle is not entirely clear but it is safe to say that increasing physical activity and being less sedentary is associated with improved mental health and psychosocial well-being.
All of these effects combine to create a dose-response relationship between time spent in sedentary behavior and mortality.
Much of the research on sedentary behaviour has focused on TV viewing time and more recently screen time.
Each 2 hour per day increase in TV time was associated with a 14-20% increase in the risk of diabetes independent of other physical activity.
How can you be more physically active?
Planning is essential to make this part of your life.
When planning your week be sure to block times to include both
Both exercise and physical activity have independent and synergistic effects on your health, be smart and get both.
With the spread of COVID-19, our public health leaders have been very clear:
The time is now to stay home, social distance and physically self-isolate to prevent the spread of this epidemic.
It is important to remember that these sacrifices are not necessarily for you but will help the most vulnerable amongst us avoid this illness
As we make such massive changes to our lives, we understand that these are extraordinary times and for many people the thought of making lifestyle changes may feel overwhelming.
However, we at Wellness Garage believe that a healthy lifestyle is one of our best defenses we have against fighting off infections and disease.
Now, as much as ever, is the time to make sure that you are taking care of yourself!
And we want to be with you to support you on your health journey as we tackle these uncertain times together. Consider, we are here to support you so that you can continue to support those around you.
Our staff has moved to work from home in order to follow social distancing recommendations from public health. And just like all of you, we are getting creative and finding resourceful ways to stay connected and stay healthy.
10 Things To Help You Stay Healthy (and sane) in a Time of COVID-19
Get outside (but remember social distancing): walk- bike- hike- whatever suits you! Nature is a powerful medicine and we are fortunate in BC to have an abundance of outdoor space. Social distancing recommendations are to stay 6 feet apart from each other- which isn’t hard to do when you consider how much green space there is all around us.
Try a new recipe: With many restaurants closed, it is a great time to try a new recipe. We have a number of favourites available through our meal planning resource. Reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there is something specific you are looking for.
Learn to cook more plant-based: Check out Rouxbe, a Vancouver-based professional online cooking school offers courses for as little as $39. That is less than a meal for two at many restaurants. Now just may be the time to learn to cook!
Try yoga from home: Glo Yoga- has a variety of different yoga and meditation options to try for for FREE. YYOGA- (Vancouver & Toronto) studios are also offering online options with free trial memberships. Check with your local studios as many are offering virtual options.
Learn to meditate - now you cannot say that you don't have the time! Start with 5 min a day. Download an app: Calm, Headspace, 10% Happier, Waking Up are a few of our favorites. Meditation has many proven health benefits, but one of the first that you will realize is a reduction in stress - something we all can use a dose of right now!
Develop a home workout routine and stick to it! - Whether you have equipment or not, we have developed a number of minimalist workouts that might be just the thing you need to develop a new routine that you can easily do at home. Email email@example.com and we will send you a quick & easy resource to guide you. We recommend planning your workouts and. keeping track of how many you do a week. Try a challenge with a family member or. co-worker to help keep you accountable. We are exploring ways to deliver virtual work-outs to you- Stay Tuned!
Challenge yourself to stay off your phone: As the news of COVID-19 keeps rolling in, it will become more and more challenging to keep from reading the news as quickly as it pops up on your news feed. Try limiting yourself to specific times of the day to check for updates. Avoid reading or watching the news before bed when it can stimulate stress hormones known to interfere with sleep. With all the time you save, you can make it through that much neglected novel on your bedstand!
Plan a family games night: and another one, and another one,... Consider this time to hang low with family and take out the Yahtzee, scrabble board or puzzle that is hiding in the cupboard. Try reaching out to other friends and play a virtual card game through Facetime of Google Hangouts!
Laugh, Share Uplifting Stories: Take note of the funny and inspiring things
that are happening all around us. During challenging times, it is difficult to notice all of the good that we share. Life will return to normal and in the meantime, laughter helps to keep us connected and releases necessary endorphins that send positive messages to the brain!
Watch a documentary about health: Take the extra time when you may be homebound to watch some of the health documentaries that we have been talking about at the Garage:
Game Changers: Explores the benefits of plant based eating with a focus on how athletes are benefitting from a plant-based diet. Definitely controversial in some of it's claims but it has emerged as one of the most popular documentaries ever!
Fed Up: Explores the prevalence of sugar in the standard North American diet and how it is driving an obesity epidemic.
Embrace: Is a powerful movie about embracing your body for what it can “do”
rather than how it looks.
Cooked: Michael Pollan explores the connection between food and culture
through this Netflix series.
Supersize Me: The documentary to stop your fast food habit!
Food As Medicine: Explores the role of food in healing.
One last word - remember to take care of yourself. Give yourself space to rejuvenate, explore your (at home) hobbies, take a long bath, stretch, drink tea. Whatever ritual you find comforting, find time to work it into your day!
By taking care of ourselves, we will have more to offer others in this challenging time.
Stay safe, stay connected and be well!
Dr. Brendan Byrne