Sedentarism: The Pandemic Inside the Pandemic
It is no secret that Americans have been sedentary and are progressively moving less and less as technology advances. COVID has accelerated the rate at which Americans are sitting still by cooping everyone up in their homes for months on end. It is also no secret that the more sedentary a person is the higher risk they will be for disease. Yet here we are with the highest rates of sedentarism and obesity in human history. Exercise has seen a significant drop since the onset of COVID with the fear of becoming infected in the outside world. Without the ability to safely go outside many have bunkered down inside their homes with a bag of potato chips and a couple of screens in front of their eyes. Sedentarism is the pandemic inside of the pandemic that could be just as deadly in the future if not attacked now. The importance of staying active and healthy can not be understated especially with the onset of the pandemic.
One of the biggest changes that people have witnessed during the pandemic is their expanding waistlines. Being sedentary and stuck in the house has led to a decrease in physical activity and an increase in mindless eating leading to tighter pants and larger numbers on the scale. Pre-pandemic, over two-thirds of Americans were either overweight or obese. In 2020 the United States passed the 40% mark in adult obesity (CDC, 2020) and this was before the pandemic even began. This number can be expected to climb with most of the nation quarantining and therefore exercising less and eating more.
Two factors go into the weight gain seen among citizens of the United States. The obvious first factor is the overconsumption of food resulting in a caloric surplus. The second is the low quality of the foods being consumed. COVID has driven Americans into their homes and the arms of carb-loaded, starchy snack foods. Mindless eating is at an all-time high with adults and children stuck behind the webcam of their laptops either in business meetings or virtual classrooms. Without the structure that was present during the work and school day, meal and snack time have morphed into continuous eating throughout the day leading to unexpected weight gain in Americans.
The resolution to this problem is theoretically easy, eat fewer calories that are of a higher quality. Much easier said than done. Stress is another factor that leads people down the path of overconsumption of food. And stress is abundant as toilet paper is scarce. The best thing to do is first to set back up an eating schedule and stick to it kicking mindless eating to the curb. The next step is to swap starchy foods with healthier options. Unprocessed, real foods are a good choice. Think vegetables, fruits, and certain types of meat and grains. Losing weight or just not gaining any more weight during the pandemic may seem like a daunting task but it is possible with a little hard work and discipline.
Negative Health Effects
Sitting is the new smoking. The negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle are many and may not reveal themselves until further down the line. Already mentioned, weight gain and obesity are the most common and noticeable impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Increased rates of stroke, heart disease (both coronary heart disease and heart attack), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes are some of the more popular health risks that may come with a sedentary lifestyle (MedlinePlus, 2020). Some of the lesser-known risks are higher rates of depression and anxiety. Ironically, higher rates of depression and anxiety can lead to even more eating and sedentarism.
The spotlight is on COVID right now, and rightly so, but there should be a secondary spotlight on how the virus is indirectly impacting the health of the United States and presumably the entire world. Hunkering down in our homes for months on end has the ability to instill some long-term damaging habits that can easily stick with Americans going into the future as working from home and virtual school will be sticking around.
Breaking Out of the Sedentary Lifestyle
So how do we break the sedentary cycle and cast down the newly termed Sitting Disease? Again, the idea is theoretically simple: move more, eat less, and eat higher-quality foods. And again, much easier said than done. The first key is to just get up and move. Whether that be outside in your neighborhood or inside for an online workout class. Exercise has the ability to reduce the risk of all of the above-mentioned health risks and help keep those sweatpants from further expansion. If 0 minutes is the current amount of exercise present shoot for a 15-30 low-intensity walk and work up from there. The main idea is to just move.
The next key is to get nutrition right. Try to get back on an eating schedule to limit mindless eating during the day. Replace carb-loaded foods with healthier options like unprocessed sources of protein, vegetables, and fruits. Do not wait for COVID to be over to act. Take control of your health and wellbeing now before more damage is done.
The pandemic has further immobilized an already sedentary American population with over 40% of adults categorized as obese and another third of the country overweight. Some of the most damage done to us physically by COVID has been to our waistlines. Decreased physical activity and increased consumption of food have led to an increase in weight gain during quarantine. This sedentary lifestyle, also known as the Sitting Disease, has many adverse health effects, many of which will not show themselves until later in our lives. To fight these health risks, we need to get up and move, get back to a structured daily routine of exercise and eating, eat less, and eat higher-quality foods. The time to act is now before bad habits of sedentarism and binge eating solidify themselves in our lives. The impacts COVID can have on wellbeing are serious but the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle are just as serious and cannot be overlooked.
Center for Disease Control. (2020, February 27). Products - Data Briefs - Number 360 - February 2020. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm
Katella, K. (2020, July 01). Quarantine 15? What to Do About Weight Gain During the Pandemic. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/quarantine-15-weight-gain-pandemic
MedlinePlus. (2020, December 02). Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/healthrisksofaninactivelifestyle.html