In the days in which farming was a typical occupation, and factory work involved physical activity, the problem of sedentary lifestyle was quite rare. Today the majority of Americans report that they do not engage in regular physical activity of greater than 20 minutes duration at least three times a week. By that definition, most people are sedentary. To be more precise:
• 58% of US citizens are reported to have a sedentary lifestyle, making sedentary lifestyle the most prevalent modifiable risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease.
• Defined as irregular physical activity, as reported as less than three sessions of activity per week, or sessions of less than 20 minutes per occasion.
The consequences of sedentary lifestyle are obvious. Obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension are linked to sedentary lifestyle. In addition, mood disorders are more common in those with sedentary lifestyle. Substance use and abuse is more common in those who are physically inactive. Overall, reversing a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most rewarding lifestyle changes a person can undertake. Initiation of exercise releases the body’s natural opioids; the phenomenon of runner’s high is well documented. Plus, becoming active can have nearly immediate reinforcing effects. Those who exercise, eat better, sleep better, have better moods, and better life satisfaction than those who are sedentary.
Myths about increasing physical activity are numerous, but don’t let yourself be dissuaded by them. These myths include:
Concern that one must exercise for over 30 minutes daily for the activity to make a difference.
Concern that exercise must be costly (e.g., equipment, gym fees, personal trainers).
Concern that exercise will result in some sort of injury.
Concern that there are other activities that are more important.
We have just one response to those points: they are MYTHS!
20-30 minutes of walking per day, more days than not, will make a big difference.
All one needs to walk is a decent pair of shoes.
Walking is the least likely exercise to cause joint, back or muscle problems. A program of wellness is imperative for people to maintain fitness for life and fitness for duty.
Interested firefighters are referred to the Health and Fitness Initiative of the IAFF for guidelines on physical fitness training. (Wellness – Fitness Manual Link)