We are all aware that exercise and movement are important components of health. But how many of us actually move enough throughout the day? The truth is that a lot of people end up following a sedentary lifestyle without even realizing it. The ongoing pandemic, which has forced millions of people to work from home and stay at home all day, has only aggravated the issue, as more and more people are sitting on a chair all day without moving much.
Not all of us have the time to hit the gym every day, but doctors say that even light exercise and movement – from a walk around your block to a light yoga session – can have a significant impact on your overall health and well-being. But how can you tell that you're not moving enough? Your body will let you know through these subtle but clear signals, so all you have to do is to watch out for them.
1. You're regularly constipated
Constipation can happen due to various reasons, including dehydration and a diet poor in fiber. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, constipation can also occur when you're not getting enough exercise.
When we move more, our GI tract moves more as well, and that makes our bowel movements normal. To keep our bowel movements regular, we must move regularly throughout the day, especially as we age. On the other hand, if you keep sitting in a chair or lying on a sofa for most of the day, your bowel moments will suffer. Therefore, make it a point to take little breaks throughout the day where you get up and stretch or take a walk for a few minutes. That will certainly make a big difference in your gut health.
2. You’re always fatigued without even doing too much work
Have you been feeling sluggish or fatigued for most of the day, even though you are hardly doing any physical work? If this is happening even when you are having sufficient food and are sleeping properly, it could be a sign of too little movement. Research published in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior says that even one low to moderate-intensity exercise for 20 minutes can boost one’s energy and decrease fatigue.
This isn’t particularly surprising, as previous studies have also suggested that exercise boosts the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach your tissues. But if you spend most of your day sitting or lying down, then your tissues won’t get that necessary dose of oxygen and nutrients, leading to tiredness or fatigue.
3. You're always out of breath
Do you often find yourself being winded or feel out of breath after climbing the stairs or taking a short walk? That may be another signal that you need to include some cardio exercises in your daily routine.
If you don’t train the muscles that help your lungs expand and contract sufficiently, they will start losing strength. As a result, you will start feeling out of breath quicker. Over time, the lungs and the heart of those who have settled into a sedentary lifestyle will become weaker, and you will feel overworked as a result of even minor physical activity. The best remedy for a tired heart and lungs is to keeping your body active because the less activity you do, the more breathless you are likely to feel.
4. Your joints hurt
Stiff and painful joints can be an indication of inflammatory conditions like arthritis or an autoimmune disease. However, this may also mean that you aren’t using them enough during the day. Healthy joints need to move - plain and simple. Our knees, shoulders, and ankles have a lubricant called synovial fluid in them. According to Arthritis-health, the primary function of this fluid is “to provide cushion and lubrication for joints.”
Additionally, synovial fluid delivers nutrients to cartilage (the tissue that keeps joint motion fluid). It is vital to keep joints active and moving frequently to circulate the synovial fluid throughout the joint. Being sedentary for long hours can slow down the production of this fluid in our joints, causing pain and stiffness. So, put your joints to work by making sure you walk at least 15-20 minutes every day.
5. Your muscles suddenly feel tight
Some muscles can get tight due to restricted movement too. This particularly happens when you spend long days and weeks working at a desk or when there's a lack of physical activity for an extended period altogether. Basically, when you stop moving your muscles, they tend to tighten up or freeze. When this starts happening regularly, even simple daily activities will start feeling uncomfortable.
Just moving your muscles and getting the blood pumping to that area of your body will be sufficient to ease the pain and discomfort. You don’t need to start doing any high-intensity lifting or cardio to improve your muscle strength. Simply spending a few minutes three or four times a week stretching your body will keep them in good shape.
6. You're irritable or sad for no reason
Lack of body movement doesn’t just affect your body; it can also affect your mood. Regular exercise makes our body release chemicals called endorphins, also known as 'happy hormones.' These hormones help trigger a positive feeling in the body and also help relieve stress. Now, when you start leading a sedentary lifestyle and stop moving around much, those endorphins are unlikely to be released, and you might end up feeling irritable or sad for no reason.
So, if not for anything else, you can start exercising regularly to keep yourself in good spirits in these difficult times. Try and include light-weight cardio exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming in your daily routine to keep your mood positive and stable.
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