The average American spends 93% of their time indoors, reports the EPA, and this percentage is even higher in urban areas in which green spaces are scarce or absent. Sitting on a sofa or spending the majority of the day sitting at a desk has many health effects, both physical and mental. A 2019 study by the European Society of Cardiology, for instance, found that 20 years of a sedentary lifestyle is linked to a doubled early mortality risk compared to an active lifestyle. Urban dwellers can be tempted to spend the little free time they may have relaxing, yet studies show that taking the time and effort to find and spend time (exercising and simply ‘being’ in green settings) can benefit the body and mind in various ways.
City Planning Is A Health Impediment
A study published in medical journal, The Lancet, has shown that many of the health problems associated with urban life are caused by poor planning. In particular, cars and the infrastructure and planning required to support them – directly and indirectly – expose city dwellers to risks such as air and noise pollution, traffic, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, personal safety issues, and isolation. The researchers suggested key changes that need to be made in cities. These include the creation of walkable and bikeable environments, the shortening of distances to commercial developments and services, and a reduction in the availability of parking spaces. The authors wrote that all these changes would “reduce the environmental, social and behavioral risk factors that affect lifestyle choices, levels of environmental pollution, noise and crime.”
In order to battle the effects of the sedentary lifestyle, simply exercising for the recommended amount of time (150 minutes a week) is insufficient. Sitting for several hours a day can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, and more chronic conditions. At work, aim to get up from your seat every hour or so, taking time to walk to visit colleagues, run up and down a flight of steps, or complete yoga/Pilates/stretching exercises for a few minutes. You can also use a standing desk, which boosts productivity and enables you to alternate between sitting and standing. In order to use a standing desk properly, aim for a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 sitting-to-standing. Additionally, make sure that your desk height and computer screen enable you to work ergonomically, without straining your neck, forearms or hands.
Embracing Green Time
If your typical day consists of commuting to work and back home, then you could be missing out on the healing effects of the great outdoors. A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology has found that being in nature for as little as 10 minutes helps people successfully battle stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues. Exercising outdoors also wields a host of benefits, since it provides athletes with varied terrains and wind resistance, which can help them burn more calories than when they exercise indoors. Outdoor workouts are also more enjoyable, and they are associated with heightened revitalization and increased energy.
The sedentary lifestyle has many effects on human health. In order to battle its effects, try to exercise regularly, and use a standing desk on a daily basis. Ensure you meet recommended exercise levels, exercising outdoors if possible to avail of nature’s stress-busting effects.
~ By Jennifer Henderson