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 sit 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. Without the ability to go our in public as much, many have stayed inside their homes with potato chips and watching screens. Sedentarism is the pandemic inside of the pandemic. The importance of staying active and healthy can not be understated, especially with the pandemic's onset.
Pandemic Weight Gain
One of the most significant 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 exercising less and eating more.
Two factors go into the weight gain seen among citizens of the United States. The overconsumption of food resulting in a caloric surplus, and the second is consuming low-quality foods. 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 their laptops' webcam either in business meetings or virtual classrooms. Without the structure 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. First, the best thing to do is 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 Of A Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting is the new smoking. The negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle are many and may not reveal until further down the line. Already mentioned, weight gain and obesity are the most common and noticeable impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Increased stroke rates, 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 can 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 also, much easier said than done. The key is to get up and move, whether outside in your neighborhood or an online workout class. Exercise can reduce the risk of all of the health mentioned above 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 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.
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 sedentarism and binge eating solidifies themselves in our lives. The impacts COVID can have on well-being are severe, but a sedentary lifestyle's adverse effects 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