Active vs. Busy: Which Are You?

Happiness: Lifestyle

By: // February 24, 2015

There’s a difference between being busy and being active. If you are like many people, busy means you have lots to do, but you do most of it sitting on your bum. If you have a desk job or work in front of your computer screen, you know what I’m talking about. Sitting a lot … at work, on your commute, on an airplane, in front of a TV … isn’t good for your health. While your busy schedule isn’t likely to change, you can make changes to have a more active lifestyle.

Get motivated to sit less by knowing the facts.

In a New York Times article titled, “Is Sitting Lethal?” Marc Hamilton, a researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center described what happens to your body when you are sitting:

“Electrical activity in the muscles drops, the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse, leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides— for vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream, plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol fall.”

Yikes. Doesn’t this motivate you to sit less?

Even if you have a desk job, there are simple ways you can sit less.

Take a break and stretch.

Get up to talk to someone in the office instead of emailing them.

Stand up while you are on the phone.

Walk at lunch even if you just loop your building.

Act like you are going to sit in your chair, but don’t. Do that three times. Look at you, you just did three squats at work.

Propose a walking meeting.

Walk the stairs in your office.

Do more than exercise for an hour. 

If you devote an hour to your workouts most days of the week, you are on the right track, but you can’t stop there. Too many people think that one hour of exercise is their permission slip to sit on their butts the rest of the day. Just like a quote I posted on Facebook the other day … “You won’t get the butt you want by sitting on it.”  It’s so true. You have to move! Most people have a tendency to underestimate the amount of calories they consume and overestimate the amount they burn and then they wonder why they aren’t seeing the results they want. The trick is to move more. One hour of exercise isn’t your license to be sedentary the rest of the day or to eat more. All day long, look for opportunities to move your body more. There are all sorts of ways to creatively sneak movement into your day.

Hide your remote. Stand up to change the channel or march in place during the commercials.

Walk on a treadmill when you watch TV.

Are there any places in your neighborhood you can walk to instead of taking your car? Try it.

Pull out your bike.

Listen to a book on tape while you garden.

Take the stairs.

Check out more tips to sneak movement into your day in my Prevention magazine about 100 ways to Lose Weight, No Sweat. Oh, and fidget regularly. It burns calories.

a woman holding her iPhone

Walk and Talk! (Just don’t text and walk!)

Turn daily chores into a calorie burn.

When tidying up, do several small trips instead of one trip where you haul everything.

When you vacuum, throw in a few lunges.

Carrying grocery bags? Use those heavy groceries to work your biceps.

Dance while cooking.

Wash your own car instead of taking it to a drive-through.

Wear a body monitor.  

If you really want an accurate gauge of your movement in a day, wear a body monitor. I love my FitBit Flex.

Track calories burned, steps taken and your personal bests.

Set a step goal for the day and your wristband will vibrate when you hit your goal.

Connect with friends on your FitBit dashboard for a little healthy competition. An investment in a small device can really pay off big when you are motivated all day long to take more steps!

Remind yourself that busy isn’t active.

Just because you don’t know if you are coming or going doesn’t mean you are getting the physical activity that your body needs. Make sure you schedule exercise each day and keep looking at the rest of your day for ways to add more movement to it. The Physical Activity Guideline for American adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week.  Are you getting a few good sweat sessions in each week? Divide your exercise time up if that’s easier for you: 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there—because it all counts!

I heard a great quote by Dr. Christine Carter: “Let’s all stop glorifying busy.” Busy doesn’t mean you are healthy. Busy doesn’t mean you are taking time for you and your health. Think active instead. With an active lifestyle, you are investing in your health.

P.S. Every time you move your body, it counts!

This article was originally published in April of 2012 and was updated in February 2015.

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