Maritime Wellness: The cost of a sedentary lifestyle

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Sedentary lifestyles can lead to health issues

Sedentary lifestyles can lead to health issues, even for mariners and seafarers. (Credit: Shutterstock)

By Emily Reiblein, Director HSSE – Crowley Logistics

The American population is generally challenged when it comes to getting enough exercise. The U.S. government has recommendations on time and type of activity that combats chronic diseases and the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. These include getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

The government also recommend at least two sessions a week of muscle/strength work. Despite all the well-researched benefits, only 23% of adults hit this activity mark. One primary reason people site for not exercising is for lack of time, thus it might help to examine where our time goes and how we can engage in physical activity.

Time and where it wonders off to can often feel like a mystery. Days spent in meetings, driving, watching waves and general drudgery can often run together. A body of research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others has some sorely needed information about where our time goes and how much of it is available to execute an exercise goal.

Americans averaged more than five hours a day of free time for leisure activities. Men top the free time list with slightly more free time than women. “Leisure time” activities include time spent socializing, watching TV and other screen time entertainment, exercising, volunteering, or participating in religious activities. Working on household chores, cleaning, childcare, or self-care (sleeping, eating, grooming) was not considered leisure time.


It comes as no surprise that the majority of free time is spent on watching a screen with men averaging about three hours and 31 minutes daily and women averaging two hours and 55 minutes daily. This amount of time contrasts sharply with our time spent exercising: 14 minutes for women and 24 minutes for men.

Our evolution toward working at home over the last 20 years and especially now during COVID has dramatically changed our leisure time breakdown. Home computers, laptops, high-speed internet and the ever loved and hated handheld devices have changed our leisure time forever.

Journalist Brigid Schulte further explores this evolution and how it has changed our time for activities in her book “Overwhelm.” The leisure time we have is now broken into bits of 5-10 minutes intervals, creating a situation where that time is easily overlooked and often unintentionally used.

The good news is that the time for physical activity is available for most Americans, but it does take a little thoughtful crafting. Here are a few tips and tricks that may help keep an activity goal on track:

  • Changing How We Feel About Time Pressures. How we feel about the pressure time puts on us can be manipulated. In 2007, researchers pinpointed different ways of managing time, reactively or proactively. When individuals managed time reactively, they felt tied to the clock and feelings of accomplishment in relationship to time declined. The effect was depressing to them. By contrast, those individuals with an active time management style including a plan, schedule and structure felt a sense of control over time and accomplishment of their goals. Making a plan that includes exercise and other leisure time activities that are important can help make them a reality.
  • Crafting Novelty. Research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviorshowed that engaging activities feel less stressful and less like a “chore.” Doing something new can create engagement. According to behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski, when something is new, synaptic connections are created in the brain and new development occurs. Trying a new sport or new physical activity can spark the desire for engagement and help develop a better and stronger brain. Fortunately, the pandemic has helped create more availability in exercise novelty.
  • Start Small and Get Help. New physical activities can often mean using new muscles that may lack strength and flexibility. If not done with care it will leave you on the couch (watching TV) unable to reengage in the activity again. Start small and work with someone who can help you build muscle strength and flexibility for the activity. If you have never tried something before, do not shy away from it. Speak to a professional who has previous experience. That individual can help remove a lot of the guesswork to ensure your enjoyment of the activity and ability to execute the exercise safely and repeatedly for a long time to come.

Exercise is one key element to a healthy and mobile life. Carving out the time to exercise and making it a part of your leisure time plan is one way to reinvigoration a goal and continues on the path toward a wiser, and healthier 2022.

Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. All medical advice should be sought from a medical professional.

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