The only valid excuse for not exercising is paralysis – Moira Nordholt
Excuse me, did you just say exercise?!
The mere thought or mention of word ‘exercise’ is so intimidating to most of us that we are always ready with some or other excuses, howsoever, ridiculous these may sound.
No wonder, as approximately one-third i.e. 31% of the global population aged ≥15 years engages in insufficient physical activity, and it is known to contribute to the death of approximately 3.2 million people every year (WHO).
Psychology behind excuses
Why do we make excuses?
Various studies on human behavior have shown that procrastination happens when immediate effort required is substantial and rewards are in the future.
As per the psychologists, excuses fall in the category of “self-pitying” or “self- handicapping” of human behavior.
“Self-pitying” is a trick designed by our brain, stemming from our deeper and sub-conscious desires, to save ourselves from shame and guilt of inaction.
Making excuses help us in shifting the responsibility to such exogenous factors which are out of our control. This makes us feel relieved and less burdensome.
That is why an activity as boring and painful as exercising always finds its way in excuses. However, the constant habit of making excuses also has a very damaging effect on our levels of motivation which further deteriorates our sense of self-worth. So, it is a kind of getting trapped in a vicious circle of procrastination.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Metabolic health
There is a rising concern over the time people spend into sedentary activities which includes screen time, occupational and idle or leisure sitting.
The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab) examined the consequences of television viewing time on objectively measured indices of metabolic health and related biomarkers in a large, population-based sample of more than 11,000 Australian adults.
In adults without known diabetes, a common surrogate for sitting time, self-reported television viewing time, was positively associated with undiagnosed abnormal glucose metabolism and the metabolic syndrome. Importantly, all of these associations persisted after adjustment for sustained and moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity.(Courtesy: NCBI)
In order to understand the above study well it will be good to know the definition of metabolism.
A metabolism is the chemical process by which our body converts whatever we eat and drink into energy. We all need this energy to do day to day tasks of our life.
According to the Center for Metabolic and Obesity Surgery, a metabolic disorder disrupts the chemical processes and prevents the body from gaining access to energy and nutrients. When multiple metabolic disorders are presents then such a situation is known as Metabolic Syndrome.
Most physicians diagnose metabolic syndrome in individuals with at least three of the following measurements:
- Abdominal obesity (waist circumference of 35+ inches for women, 40+ inches for men)
- Triglycerides greater than 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL)
- HDL (“good”) cholesterol of less than 50 mg/dL for women, 40 mg/dL for men
- Blood pressure greater than 130/85
- Fasting glucose levels of 100+ mg/dL
(Courtesy: Center for Metabolic and Obesity Surgery)
Sedentary time vs. Physical activity
It is observed that kids adopt sedentary behaviors, like watching TV or mobile, out of habit or to overcome their boredom instead of conscious decision making.
Similarly, adults are required to sit for long period of time in offices out of expectations and necessity than conscious intentions. There are evidences which suggest that work environment has foster sedentary behavior in adults, regardless of the sector.
Various studies have further suggested that sedentary time in one segment of life anticipates time spent sitting in other areas of life as well.
While physical inactivity has been ranked as the fourth global leading cause of death, sitting time has been described as an independent major mortality risk factor, responsible for 3.8% of all deaths. Prospective studies evidenced that two hours per day of additional sitting time increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality and cardiovascular events on 5% and 17%, respectively, regardless of the physical activity level.(Courtesy: NCBI) (Image courtesy: WHO)
So, what is your Excuse?!
I am much tempted to share a real life story of extreme grit and determination and on how exercise can bring upon a positive change in life.
“You know those kids with all kinds of medical problems? Yeah, that was me.” – Heather Laptalo
Heather Laptalo was an extreme case of scoliosis and kyphosis and had three major back surgeries because of it. The first occurred when she was 13 years old and then two more at age 19.
“Due to the four rods that currently fuse 85% of my spine, I am 20% disabled. I’m also missing 40% of my lung capacity. Too fragile for sports. Too broken to run. I will never be able to ski or climb mountains—and the pain will never go away.”
She was told by her doctors that she was “too disabled to run” due to lack of mobility, ability to absorb shock and lack of lung capacity.
However, no obstacle could stand in front of her dogged determination of overcoming odds. Despite limited lung function due to her missing ribs, she began alternating 100 meters of walking with 100 meters of running.
She started skiing and climbing mountains, and prefers trail running to taking on roads. She even hiked to the Everest base camp at nearly 18,000 feet.
(Courtesy: To learn more please visit website: www.heatherlaptalo.com.)
Sit less and stand more – Sitting is new smoking
Most often the challenge faced by office workers is that they are required to work for long number of hours and by the end of the shift they are too exhausted to think of any physical activity.
The most practical solution to this is to learn to take short breaks in between occupational sitting.
Instead of sitting continuously for longer period of time, it is advisable to take short breaks after every one hour. One can take a short 5 minute break to walk or stretch; this will relax your muscles and improves blood circulation.
It is said that one must do 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity at least 4-5 times a week. However, people grappling with hectic schedules find it difficult to take out 20 or 30 minutes at a stretch.
The best that can be done is to take up a light intensity or moderate intensity activity of 5-10 minutes. The intention is to break a 30 minute session into smaller sessions of 5-10 minutes each.
As per International Journal of Stroke, uninterrupted sitting is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Breaking up uninterrupted sitting with frequent, short bouts of light-intensity physical activity has an immediate positive effect on blood pressure and plasma clotting factors in healthy, overweight, and type 2 diabetic populations.
It is even observed that meditation of even 2 minutes have a very calming impact on our mind.
It is considered good to practice breathing exercises, which includes certain Pranayama, for just a minute or two in the beginning. They promote both physical as well mental well being of an individual.
All the above practical measures can be done while being at your desk and does not also require much time.
Guide to Desk Exercises
Researchers from the University of Virginia Health System suggests that regular exercise might significantly reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is one of the main causes of death in COVID-19
Hence, in these taxing times of pandemic, regular physical activity should be treated as a necessity to improve quality of life.