The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown changed the fitness habits of most Americans. But many people still haven’t started exercising again.
Here’s a good reason to do it: A new study in the journal Stroke found that the less active people were, the higher their risk for stroke. A stroke happens when a blood clot cuts off the blood supply to your brain and keeps it from getting oxygen and nutrients.
The research found that people under 60 who sat for 8 hours a day – and weren’t very active otherwise – were 7 times more likely to have a stroke than people who were sedentary for less than 4 hours a day and got 10 minutes or more of exercise a day.
Being inactive is bad for almost every system in your body. For instance, it slows your blood flow, hurts your glucose levels, and encourages weight gain. Over time the inactivity triggers inflammation, which damages arteries, leading to a higher risk for strokes and heart attacks.
But there’s also some good news, other research shows. It turns out that just 20 minutes a day of aerobic activity can significantly lower inflammation—and offers lots of other health benefits.
Take your workout outdoors
The mild Fall weather makes it a good time for breaking a sweat outside. Try these ways to get moving:
- Take a walk or ride a If you’re feeling out of shape, go for a short stroll or bike ride at first. Shoot for 5-10 minutes. Then work up to 20 minutes or even more.
- If you have kids in tow, head to a park—or your backyard—to kick a soccer ball around, play a game of tag, or shoot some hoops.
- Take the dog for longer or more frequent walks.
- Do your own yard work. Gardening, mowing the grass, or raking leaves all count.
Get moving inside
Try these ideas to get more movement indoors:
- Try not to sit or lounge too long at a time. Set an alarm to go off once an hour, then get up and move around.
- Walk up and down stairs to get your heart rate up and your lungs working harder or walk back and forth along a hallway. No stairs? March in place, bringing your knees up high to increase your effort.
- Multitask! Stand up if you’re talking on the phone, or even pace the floor. When watching TV, spend a few minutes pedaling on your stationary bicycle, or do some jumping jacks during commercial breaks.
- Use resistance bands to strengthen arm, shoulder, neck, and back muscles. Or use common objects like cans of food and filled water bottles as weights.
- Put together a more typical workout with pushups, squats, lunges, and planks.
- Check out YouTube and fitness apps for free exercise classes you can take in your family room or living room. Many yoga and fitness studios also provide links to online classes for a fee.
- Put on some music and do your silly dance!
By moving more each day, you can reduce the negative consequences of being sedentary. These include lowering your risk for stroke and other heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and cancer—and possibly adding years to your life!