Yet Another Excuse to Hit Your Yoga Mat

The distance between the remote and the couch cushion always seems infinitely long, and battling for the closest parking spot can be a western style duel.  Many conveniences we as humans have created to ‘save time’ are also often encouraging a lot of inaction. Even our stairs move for us!

Yet, the blood that runs through our veins and keeps us alive needs to be fueled by action. Just how much do we have to move? The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 10,000 steps daily (about 5 miles); on average, most Americans walk only half of that.

Being intentionally active is a daily, even hourly decision. As the old adage goes “if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”

If you need motivation to hit the yoga mat, take a look at this sobering new study, which shows that even three days of couch potatodom is bad for you.

A recent New York Times article ‘Why It’s So Important to Keep Moving’ reported on a new study published by the University of Missouri in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise magazine, which examined the effects of inactivity on blood sugar levels. Inactive people are at an increased risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Few studies before have looked at the consequences of inactivity, because it is difficult to isolate exactly what makes an unhealthy person unhealthy.

In this study, researchers picked one variable known to be a good marker of health: blood sugar levels. More specifically, they focused on how the body controls blood sugar levels in relationship to how much the body moves. John P. Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, explaiend to the New York Times that “spikes and swings in blood sugar after meals have been linked to the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.” This study took a group of active adults, and basically told them to stop being active. In order to isolate the effects of physical activity on blood sugar levels, the volunteers went through different stages, and their blood sugar levels were monitored continuously throughout the study.

Before the study, the volunteers led active lives, surpassing the recommended daily steps, and their blood sugar did not spike after meals. During the study, the volunteers cut back on activity for three days to fall below 5,000 steps daily. Now, even though they continued to eat the same foods as they always did, their blood sugar levels after eating peaked about 26% compared with peaks when the volunteers were active. The blood peaks grew everyday and were direct results of lack of physical activity.

The implications of the study are omnious. Only three days of inactivity showed up in the body right away as increasing spikes in blood sugar, an early stage marker of increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. The study is a reminder just how adaptable the human body is, which makes it easier to form habits.

On the bright side, the study is a reminder that all those hours you log on the yoga mat makes a big difference! (Well, you knew that already, didn’t you?) Baby steps lead to progress, as long as you keep taking them! Whether your thing is to get your 10,000 daily steps or you prefer downward dogs, doesn’t really matter. Instead of looking for ways to not move, look for ways to move more like parking far away from the entrance to the supermarket as you can (side benefit: you don’t have to fight for a ‘good’ parking spot); skipping the escalator to hike up the stairs instead; and hey, even ditching that remote just to force you up from the couch more frequently.

For the full article on the importance of being active, see here.

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