Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion will stay in motion, while an object at rest will remain at rest. This will happen to infinity unless some other force acts upon the object to stop, start or change its direction.
This phenomenon of an object’s tendency to resist change is also called inertia, and aptly describes our own tendencies. Once we get into a routine of doing or not doing something, we tend to stay in that routine until "some other force acts upon us to stop, start or change our direction."
Inertia is great for our health and well-being provided we are following the mantra of exercising regularly and eating nutritiously dense low-calorie food. However, when the inevitable forces of life act upon us and force us to stop, inertia dictates that we will remain stopped.
When this happens, become your own force and don’t let inertia be the reason to keep you sedentary. Instead, let it be the reason to keep you healthy by forming healthy habits.
» Healthy Habit 1: Break up your sitting sessions with movement.
This is absolutely the most important habit you can adopt. Understandably, modern life has given rise to a sedentary workday, but you must do all you can to break up your sitting sessions as if your life depended on it, because it actually does. A recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated that reducing sitting time to less than three hours a day could increase your life expectancy by two years. The study also reports that even if you meet recommended exercise guidelines but still engage in prolonged sitting spells, you are still at risk.
Apparently the physiological consequences of prolonged sitting are separate from the physiology of exercise, and the two do not necessarily cancel each other out. Simply stated, 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day is simply not enough to combat the effects of an eight- to 16-hour day of sedentary behavior. As long as you are diligent in limiting prolonged sitting, though, this danger is simple enough to ameliorate. Set a timer to go off every 50 minutes to remind you to get up and walk around the office. The health benefits of doing so will far outweigh the preliminary inconvenience it may cause.
» Healthy Habit 2: Get plenty of rest.
Several studies published in the last decade corroborate the notion that sleep-deprived individuals, those who receive less than eight hours per night, have increased rates of obesity and a much harder battle when attempting to lose weight. The consequences of undersleeping create a negative feedback cycle difficult to break. First, secretion levels of leptin and ghrelin — hormones responsible for signaling fat storage and hunger — become out of balance.
Second, the metabolism slows down, making it difficult to lose weight. Finally, the body’s ability to utilize glucose is greatly impaired, making the task of exercise difficult because chronic fatigue limits one’s ability to be active.
Remember, it took time to form unhealthful habits, so it will take an equal amount of time to form new, healthful ones. Be patient with yourself and persevere, because once you successfully form a healthy habit, inertia virtually will guarantee it will stay with you for life.
Reggie Palma is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. His website is fitnessatyourdoorhawaii.com. Email questions to Fitnessatyourdoor@Mac.com.