Sept. 30 , 2021 -- In the age of COVID-19, it’s super easy to find yourself sitting or lying down for a good chunk of the day, also known as sedentary behavior. Working from home, traveling less, and opting for DoorDash and Hulu over a date night at your favorite restaurant all keep us inside the house, sometimes with limited space.
Not getting enough movement can damage your health and cause many preventable health problems to spiral. And according to a new study, an inactive lifestyle can affect menopausal women, in particular, leading to more frequent, severe hot flashes.
More Hot Flashes
Because women usually become more inactive as they age, it’s important to understand the effects that sedentary behavior can have on a woman’s body, says Sarah Witkowski, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Smith College and a co-author of the study.
"Knowledge regarding the influence of sedentary behavior on hot flashes can improve evidence-based lifestyle recommendations for women experiencing hot flashes,” she said in a news release.
Severe hot flashes can also be linked to women with a history of migraines, with the combo raising a woman’s risk for heart disease, according to research led by Stephanie Faubion, MD, medical director for the North American Menopause Society.
Moving Less and Less
Overall, people have been moving less and less for decades, with common forms of work playing a major role.
More than 80% of all jobs in the U.S. are physically inactive, up 83% since 1950, according to the American Heart Association. Jobs that are highly sedentary, like full-time office work, make up 43% of all U.S. jobs.
Out of all U.S. regions, the South has the highest number of inactive adults (28%), while the West has the lowest (20.5%), the CDC states.
But Americans aren’t the only ones struggling to stay active.
One-third of people 15 years and older across the globe aren’t getting enough exercise, which contributes to around 3.2 million deaths each year, a recent study by the Korean Journal of Family Medicine shows.
Besides being inactive at work, other reasons people don’t move enough include things in the environment, like living in a city lacking walkways, parks, or other places to exercise, and the rise in screen time, like watching Netflix or scrolling through your Twitter feed, the study states.
In the U.S., 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese (69%) and 1 in 3 adults are obese (36%), according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Curling up on the couch for your favorite show can be relaxing, but you shouldn’t spend too much time on sit-down entertainment. The more TV people watch, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source states.
Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
Mental Health Effects
Staying active can have positive mental health outcomes, since exercising releases endorphins, or natural “happy chemicals” in the body that can leave you with a high, euphoric feeling, often compared to that of morphine.
When you’re focusing your attention on crushing your workout, your concerns and worries often take a backseat.
The inability or lack of motivation to exercise during the pandemic has had negative effects on the mental health of people in the U.S. and across the globe, according to a study in Preventive Medicine Reports.
Between April and September of 2020, researchers conducted an online survey of 4,026 adults in Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and West Virginia.
Adults in more urban areas reported having more trouble staying active, likely due to things in the environment, which resulted in greater mental health challenges, the study says.
Low-income households making less than $50,000 a year also reported having a harder time staying active, vs. households making more than $50,000 a year, which led to a rise in mental health struggles.
Tip: Stay Active Throughout the Day
It’s best to have a “whole-day approach” when it comes to physical activity, says David Dunstan, PhD, head of the Physical Activity Laboratory in the Metabolism and Obesity Division at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
Here are a few ways to keep your body moving throughout the day.
- Train yourself to stand when talking on the phone
- Work from a standing desk or high countertop
- When watching TV, walk in place or on a treadmill
- Make sure to stand-up and stretch at least once every hour
- If you have an opportunity to move, use it! For example, when meeting a friend for coffee, grab your lattes and go for a walk
For more ways to stay active during the day, you can check out this list from the American Heart Association.