The bed can sometimes feel like a magnet. After a long and tiring day, the only thing you’d want to do is burrow yourself in the sheets and not do anything for the next few hours. Moving is most definitely not on your to-do list.
Coupled with our work from home measures, a sedentary lifestyle is more pronounced now that countries and businesses are taking precautionary measures to better safeguard one’s health from the novel coronavirus. Not only is there a lack of need to travel to and from the workplace, but studies have also shown that the pandemic workday has blurred the work-life balance. Remote workers are putting in more hours, which translates to more time spent deskbound and less time actually moving. This may sound harmless since, after all, how can inactivity be bad for you?
In comes the body aches and pain, and you’ve realised that perhaps, such a sedentary lifestyle may not be as harmless as you thought it was.
What is a sedentary lifestyle?
A 2018 study done by the World Health Organisation shows that 1 in 3 Singaporeans are not reaching the minimum amount of exercise required to lead a healthy life. It stated that men have surpassed women in engaging in physical exercise, but even then, both genders are still far behind the global average. Bearing in mind that physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, this statistic is highly concerning.
Juggling everyday responsibilities and commitments is already overwhelming enough, including exercise into your busy schedule can easily be a challenge. Whilst it’s no doubt easier to embrace a sedentary lifestyle, the ones that will pay for your decision will ultimately be your body and health.
Its effects on health
Ironically, merely lounging and not moving have the propensity to bring you harm. Prolonged sitting promotes deconditioning, a form of exercise intolerance that impairs one’s ability to perform physical tasks beyond normal expectations. This will naturally affect one’s ability to meet the demands of increasingly physical workloads.
- Muscle atrophy
Muscle atrophy refers to muscles that have shrivelled and stiffen after a short time of inactivity. This wasting (thinning) or loss of muscle tissue leads to decreased muscle mass, and utilising these muscles for everyday tasks becomes challenging due to the resulting muscle weakness. In fact, studies have shown that paraspinal muscles (muscles that support the back) atrophy and increase in fat contact are associated with low back pain from the result of physical activity.
- Early muscle fatigue
Once one does participate in physical activities, however, cardiovascular issues may start to develop. Adopting a sedentary lifestyle means that the heart is not used to pumping any faster than the rate that it typically does. Apart from a reduced efficacy of the heart, this also means that your muscles cannot receive enough oxygenation to support the said physical activity. This will result in an oxygen deficit, lactic acid accumulation, and nutrimental depletion, leading to early muscle fatigue. Fatigued muscles are more likely to suffer strains and microtraumas with overuse. Muscle fatigue may also lead to tendon and ligament injuries.
- Bone strength and disc
As the structure that sets the foundation of your body, bone health is extremely important. However, due to inactivity, your bone health can be severely affected. Optimal bone health requires stimuli to encourage continued remodelling and increased reabsorption from osteoclast, a bone cell that breaks down bone tissue. The lack of such stimuli will result in weak and less dense bones, leading to strain and deformation. When the bones are brittle, it increases the risk of fractures and breakage, and by extension, further limits movement and mobility.
Reversing effects of sedentary lifestyles
The only way out of all the aches and pain is to simply do the antithesis of what you’ve been doing all this while: be physically active. Muscles will reverse the deconditioning effects by using the underutilised muscles. Exercising helps to build and strengthen these muscles, which can protect the bones from injury. Moreover, exercise also improves blood supply to these muscles and increases their capacity to use oxygen, reducing early muscle fatigue.
You don’t need to run a marathon or start on a bootcamping regimen to reverse these effects either! If you wish to start slow, perhaps begin with a short walk or pedalling on a stationary bike. Once you get the hang of it and feel comfortable with your current intensity level, you can challenge yourself with longer or more intense sessions.
If you find yourself still debilitated by the ache and pain, perhaps it’s time to consult with a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. To ease your entire process, our telehealth app is here to help you see a doctor online. Receive a diagnosis and medical advice from a virtual doctor by downloading the MyCLNQ app! Available on both Google Play and App Store, you can now meet your healthcare needs with just a click of a button!