Most of us are familiar with the picture of sedentary living, but did you know it’s also possible to be actively sedentary? Actively sedentary is a new category of people who exercise for about an hour per day but are sedentary for the other 23 hours.
Mind-blowing, right? This means that someone who is meeting or even exceeding the American Heart Association’s physical activity guidelines for adults can still be sedentary.
Avoid becoming actively sedentary by adopting a movement-based lifestyle, in which movement is an integral part of your day to day activities. Small actions matter. Sit on the floor instead of the couch. Walk short intervals throughout your day, about 3–5 miles in total. Take your shoes off and let your feet experience some texture. Just keep yourself moving. The less your body stays in one position for a prolonged amount of time the better. Living this way is simple and requires no equipment, so there is no reason to not get started today.
Most of us have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” but have you also stopped to consider you become shaped by you do or don't move?
In the biomechanists Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA, she describes the process by which our bodies adapt to how we use them. The more you remain in one position, the more your body becomes shaped in said position. The more variety of positions you give yourself, the more you utilize the range of movement a human should experience. It’s been estimated that modern humans are only using 50% or less of the full range of movement we were designed to experience.
“Your body is never “out of shape”: it is always in a shape created by how you have moved up until this very moment.” -Katy Bowman
So you might find yourself asking, how do you avoid becoming actively sedentary and let your body experience its full range of movement?
Your movement opportunities are based on the world around you. If you have access to a lot of chairs, it’s likely you’re going to opt for the chair rather than the floor. How your life is set up can ultimately determine how you use your body.
Make your set up less comfortable and convenient to open yourself up to a world of movement possibilities. By sitting on the floor instead of couches and chairs you provide yourself with movement nutrients you otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. The options of floor sitting positions are endless and this is one of the best ways to get the most out of your body.
And it doesn’t have to stop there. Consider gradually making changes in your home for more movement opportunities. Swap your electric kitchen appliances out over time for manual ones. Stop using a laundry basket. Line dry your clothes. The options here are endless.
One of the biggest barriers to regular exercise is lack of time. Our suggestion is to layer movement into your life as it already exists instead of having to set aside a separate time of day to “exercise”.
For example, keep a half foam roll right in your kitchen to stretch your calves while you wash dishes. Floor sit and adjust positions often while watching your favorite TV shows. Swap some of your driving out for walking. Most of these changes won’t take you any extra time, but add a lot to your quality of life.
“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human.” -Katy Bowman
Our bodies were designed to function at optimal capacity when we walk between 3 and 5 miles per day. This doesn’t mean that you need to walk this distance in one go. Quite the opposite, it’s actually more beneficial the more often you walk in short bursts throughout the day. And is a great way to avoid becoming actively sedentary!
Walking provides your body with an experience that you can’t get through running or riding a bike. It’s not that these activities are bad, just that you can’t trade your walking for bike riding. The mechanics of walking stimulate the cells of your body to produce new bone cells, improve blood flow, and maintain your muscular strength.
It’s also critical to vary your walking experience. For example, walking over a flat, smooth surface gives your body one type of experience. It uses specific muscles and joint ranges of motions to propel you forward. On the other hand, walking over rocks gives your body a completely different experience. This taps into different muscles and joint range of motion to propel you forward. Both experiences are important and the more variety you expose yourself to the better.
Avoiding being actively sedentary doesn’t require a major overhaul of your lifestyle. You can start to make small changes as suggested above and slowly add more movement into your day. We hope this inspired you to get moving in small ways today. Where can you get started?