Regular physical activity is critical for overall health. According to the CDC, physical activity can help you lose weight — and keep it off — strengthen muscles and bones, lessen chronic pain associated with arthritis, keep your heart healthy, boost mood and improve functional ability.
“We’re built to move our bodies,” says Haley Shevener, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately, many of us drive to work, sit at a desk all day, drive home and then sit on the couch for the remainder of the evening.
At a minimum, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity (e.g., walking, easy cycling, water aerobics) or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (e.g., running, brisk cycling, swimming laps) every week. HHS also recommends strength training at least two days per week, making sure to hit every major muscle group. Sadly, a new report reveals only 22.9% of adults actually met these physical activity guidelines between 2010–2015.
“We tend to box ourselves into a fairly sedentary lifestyle,” Shevener says. In fact, even people who work out regularly can lessen the positive effects they gain from their exercise sessions via long periods of sitting, according to research in the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, just because modern lifestyle habits make it easy to stay sedentary doesn’t mean you have to let them.