Have you joined the activity tracking craze as part of your attempt at being more mindful of your physical activity on a daily basis? Studies show that by taking the few minutes each day to log your workouts, track you steps, or time your sleep, improves your overall awareness of lifestyle choices and influences healthy decision making. Have you ever considered tracking your screen time or your sitting time? Take the challenge; yourself, as a family, or with your workout partner to track your screen time and sitting time for a week. Teens screen time average is about 5.5 hours a day for girls, nearly 7 hours for boys, and adults spend an average of 9.3 hours a day sitting. If you are shocked by your results, perhaps you can put some creative problem solving skills to work to increase your active time while you have to be in front of a screen.
There is ongoing research with results that link excessive screen time with many health problems and risks. One study suggests that teens who spend more than the recommended screen time limit of 2 hours a day is linked to poor school performance, increased mood disorders, and depression. Screen time within an hour before bedtime or for more than 4 hours a day has been associated with sleep disturbances, including needing more than an hour to fall asleep.
What happens if you add a desk job to the mix, or your nightly habit of tuning in to wind down, or the Netflix binge watching to tune out other stress? Chances are, when you finally turn out the blue lights, it is curtain call for the big screen in your brain that finally has an uninterrupted moment to then try to sort out the problems of the day and review unfinished task lists. Restlessness settles in from too much sedentary time throughout the day to physically be tired enough to drift to sleep. Perhaps it is this repeated pattern that leads to fatigue during the day, decreased energy levels that make it easier to justify putting off your workout until another day, and tempting to fueling up on a quick fix energy dense snack in an attempt to overcome the midday lulls.
Put the research to the test and start tallying up the benefits you discover as a result of sitting less and moving more: improved energy, strength, and endurance; increased productivity and focus; restful sleep and improved daytime alertness.
Need some suggestions to get started?
- Set a timer the next time you sit to start a task and “set your sit limit” to get the job done. Then get up and move.
- Schedule your time for fitness just as you would any appointment. At the beginning of each week put it on your calendar and plan to make it happen.
- Talk to your kids about the health risks of too much screen time and challenge them to set a screen limit.
- Try reaching a 5000 step total as a prerequisite to tuning into the TV or gaming.
- Set a bedtime alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to honor your body’s need for adequate sleep.
- Raise your desk to standing height or mount a shelf to your treadmill or stationary bike to allow for moving options when your would normally sit to surf, sort emails, or study.
- Avoid lunch breaks at your desk, take the few extra minutes to go outside and give your brain a break.
- Adopt a homeless dog and gain an always ready and willing walking partner.
- Decide to walk or bike errands that are within a 2 mile radius of you home. Then, store your car keys in your bike lock as a reminder.
- Turn off the TV and turn on the tunes, then dance around the kitchen while making dinner.
The key to remember is you are your best health advocate and committing to taking care of yourself as a daily priority is only something you can decide to do. You can start by making it a goal to MoVe More as part of your plan to LiVe Well.