Okay – I’ve got all of seven minutes before Sprout wakes up….so let’s get right to it:
Q: Hi Erika,
My come to fitness moment was when I realized how much time I sit down. This includes 40+ hours in the office, 10+ hours commuting, and Netflix. I added a LOT more activity & exercise into my day and now take more breaks at work. However, I wonder, if you can’t out-train a bad diet, can you out train a sedentary lifestyle?
Thanks for your thoughts in advance,
So, let’s make sure we’re clear on what happens to those who are sedentary.
A sedentary lifestyle runs counter to heart health. If an active lifestyle makes your heart stronger, allowing it to pump more oxygen and nutrients through your blood with less effort and, in some cases, even countering the effects of a diet that gunks up your blood vessels; then a sedentary lifestyle is one where your heart cannot get stronger, and your diet – the diet that often serves as the companion to a sedentary lifestyle – might actually be weakening your heart and making it more difficult for it to do its job.
A sedentary lifestyle affects bone health. Not just because there are cardiovascular medications that can block the absorption of nutrients which improve bone health, but because an active lifestyle helps build and maintain muscle that can help cushion a fall or help you catch yourself from crashing into the ground should you fall. I think those LifeAlert commercials have made it an accepted fact that “old people fall, can’t get up, need to call someone for help.” This isn’t the case, and it certainly isn’t only happening to the elderly – people at any age can fall, chip their hip or calf bones, break their leg, mainly because the reduced quality of life that comes with a sedentary lifestyle resulted in them not being able to help themselves when they fall. And, because of this, it negatively impacts joint health.
A sedentary lifestyle actively affects your muscle. Muscle that isn’t used is, well, considered useless by your body and, therefore, is wasted away. That’s what the term “atrophy” means; it’s often used with regard to people who are restricted to bedrest, and it means that muscle fibers that aren’t being put to use, after time, will be eaten up (for lack of a better phrase) by your body and spat out through your kidneys and liver. We must also remember that, as the presence of muscle is a benefit to you by increasing your metabolism, the loss of muscle also results in your metabolism plummeting.
A sedentary lifestyle that results in weight gain has a negative effect on your hormones. A sedentary lifestyle that has a negative effect on your hormones also negatively impacts your reproductive system.
And, well, your nervous system and your brain? It’s not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that a sedentary lifestyle makes you less smart, despite the many jokes we crack about “The Boob Tube”, but if it’s constantly reported that an active lifestyle makes you smarter and your brain healthier…. it’s safe to say you’re certainly missing out when you aren’t active. (Especially since chances are high you aren’t loungin’ because you’re reading books all day.)
See what I’m getting at, here?
An active lifestyle – everything from running to regularly scheduled Tootsie Roll sessions to spin class to Zumba – challenges your heart, lungs, musculature, bones, and the benefits filter outward throughout your body. This is why we tell people to start small, too – even the benefits you obtain from that small start are addictive enough to compel most people to do something huge and stick to it.
We say that you can’t out-train a bad diet because, quite frankly, a bad diet has so many negative effects that we can hardly keep track of them all. There are benefits to training while still consuming a crappy diet, but the reality is the crappy diet not only makes it hard to be energized for your training, it also makes it harder to recover, and both of those are powerful enough consequences to make people quit working out altogether.
So, should you train even with your sedentary lifestyle? Absolutely. And, if you feel like your training is useless because you can only squeeze in 10 minutes? Remember all the non-weight loss-related benefits that come from diligent training – even if it’s only 10 minutes of it – and then go get it in… and then promptly schedule a little more time for your next go’round!