One aspect of our life that we physical therapists always try to promote is physical activity. Being active and moving often is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to prevent many diseases. Movement does not only prevent diseases, it keeps you feeling energetic and youthful. That is why you should not wait to start moving. Unfortunately, many do not share this healthy habit and quite frankly the majority of us are not moving as much as we should. The consequences of our bad habits should not be taken lightly as they have a direct negative impact on our life. If not acted upon, down the stream they can even be deadly.
But how do you know if you are not being physically active or moving enough? This post will answer that question.
Being constipated can be caused by different reasons such as not getting enough water or fiber. Even if that is the case, not getting enough movement in your daily life is one of the biggest causes of digestion issues.
For our whole body to function properly proper movement needs to be involved and the same goes for our inner organs, guts included. It is quite common to experience irregularities in bowel function when sitting and lying down during a prolonged period of time.
One of the prime examples is hospitalized, patients. As they are not moving enough during their hospital stay, the number of constipated patients is increased.
Now, being constipated can easily be resolved by improved selfcare. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Constipation correlated with lack of movement usually has ties with dehydration as well, often made worse by vomiting.
Experiencing stomach aches is also a common occurrence, but it needs to get checked out if it remains for a long time. Chronic stomach pain can be a cause of intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, even a blockage of a blood flow to intestine.
Gas buildup and constipation can even lead to growth of bacteria, even serious bowel obstruction and IBS. Those conditions require medical care.
Muscle Tightness & Joint Stiffness
One of the first changes in your body that you can notice due to lack of movement is muscle tightness and joint stiffness.
I think that many of your readers out there may relate to me and my back discomfort after a long day of sitting at the desk. Others may not be moving because of different reasons but the outcome is the same.
When the muscle is not being used it loses its function.
Usually, it functions like a rubber band, it stretches and contracts, making it strong and flexible. As the movement stops, it becomes short, weak, and brittle. This leads to uncomfort and an increased risk of injury.
When it comes to joints they need movement so that bones can move smoothly. That is because they have synovial fluid in them that functions as a lubricant in all of the body’s joints. The lack of movement leads to a decrease in the production of the synovial fluid. When the production decreases your joints become more rigid.
Rigid joints and weak, brittle muscles is not a good combination as it may lead to an injury. The risk for injury is higher because the body’s strength and movement patterns are disturbed.
Injuries that may come as a consequence of previously mentioned factors can be minimal, but they can also be significant, altering your course of life.
Getting Winded Easily
Our heart and lungs need exercise to behold an optimal level of function.
As our body is really adaptable it does not take a long time before it gets used to a sedentary lifestyle. The changes in our cardiovascular function can be noticed early such as getting winded easily. Taking walks or taking the stairs becomes tiring.
That happens because the heart is adapted to working on a sedentary level, making any physical activity challenging. Other activities that usually should not be demanding, like going up the hill or running, are now challenging for you and your heart.
Inactivity and lack of movement during prolonged periods can down the lane cause major health issues.
First and foremost the increased risk for developing cardiovascular health is noticeable. The decreased heart function happens because of the lower oxygen flow, as the breathing rate and lung capacity lower. Lower amounts of oxygen reaching the heart leads to its deconditioning. If not addressed adequately the heart’s function will only get worse over time.
When we are not moving enough the changes occur in the sympathetic nervous system, better said there is an increase in its activation.
The sympathetic nervous system, SNS, is a part of an autonomic nervous system, ANS, and is our fight or flight system. That means that SNS activates when we experience danger releasing chemicals in our body that make us act accordingly. Many of those chemicals are inflammatory markers or stress hormones, which are beneficial and essential for our survival when released during short periods.
When the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive and is activated for prolonged periods of time, the increased amount of released substances can be detrimental. Usually, that leads to an increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.
Mental Health Issues
A decrease in mental health can be correlated to the above-mentioned increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system. A bigger amount of stress hormones flowing through our body affect our mental state as well. Being stressed during prolonged periods of time has a negative influence on our mental health and can even lead to depression.
But how do increasing movement and physical activity combat that?
Physical activitý and movement lead to the production of endorphins. Endorphins are associated with being a “happy hormone” making you feel more at ease.
Serotonin is one more hormone that is being produced when you introduce movement or training in your life. Those two hormones are a big contributor to you feeling happy or even getting that “runner’s high”.
There are as well other substances being released in the body that works by decreasing pain and inflammation when you are physically active.
While I was still a professionally active athlete and before the whole Covid-19 pandemic this part of my life was never an issue. When I got injured and the pandemic hit, my physical activity level was lower but I thought that regular strength training would be enough.
Soon enough I saw myself going up a size on my pants and seeing changes in the mirror that I did not enjoy. For a long time, I wondered how did this happen so quickly as well as I was a regular gym-goer. I came up with different reasoning and one that I usually blamed everything on is my metabolism.
As a child, I was always on the heavier side, so it had to be genetic and metabolism-related right? Well, actually that is not the case. In the end, everything comes down to the amount of energy used throughout the day.
In simple terms, it is all about calories in and calories out. Every time that you move, even if it’s a walk to shopping for groceries, you burn calories and spend energy. That does not happen when you mostly sit during the day.
Only when I realized how much I used to move compared to the start of the pandemic is when I got my answers. That made it easier to change my lifestyle and increase the amount of movement I performed daily.