How our meals can help us manage sedentary lifestyle
We do not mean to live a sedentary lifestyle. However, that has now become the default in modern times as most of us we do our jobs sitting in front of a desk. We also work across different time zones, which disrupts our circadian rhythm and adds to the imbalance in our bodies.
A sedentary lifestyle is considered the new smoking as it is the cause of a lot of imbalances. In this article we will look at what being sedentary can do to the body, what can we include into meals if we cannot avoid being sedentary, and how can we interweave activity in small ways to avoid staying sedentary.
What being sedentary does to the body
When we do not move physically a lot, it impacts our bodies. In Ayurveda, movement or exercise is called vyayama. Any moderate movement helps to move us towards a state of balance—physically or mentally.
Our sedentary lifestyles contribute to congestion in the lymphatic system, poor waste metabolism, imbalanced agni or our digestive fire, poor ability to handle the toxins around us, rapid ageing, poor brain health, poor sleep, mental health symptoms, and chronic inflammation.
Many symptoms and conditions can be alleviated if we are not sedentary. But we come back to the question, what if we cannot avoid being sedentary for some reason?
What can we include in our meals?
I will stress that we must try and avoid being sedentary at all costs. It could begin with the simplest steps as I have listed at the very end of this article.
- However, if we are forced to be sedentary, we contribute to congestion in the lymphatic system. Therefore, we must reduce or avoid foods that are heavy and contribute to this congestion. If we are prone to symptoms of lymph congestion such as migraines, sinus, heavy head, depression, water retention, breast tenderness, or oedema, then this becomes all the more critical. These body types need movement as a non-negotiable aspect every day. Without movement, they quickly get congested. Foods that are very congestive include pasteurised dairy, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, refined sugar, and desserts.
- When we are sedentary, our agni is compromised. With this tendency of the digestive fire to weaken, we tip towards symptoms of digestive distress including gas, bloating, indigestion, and heartburn. If we do not digest our food well, then we create ama, or metabolic toxins. This then spirals us into chronic health challenges. Therefore, we must take care that we eat food which is easy to digest. Any food that is dry, hard, airy, light, and heavy will pose a problem. An example of this is eating a dry naan made of refined wheat, which is too heavy for a compromised agni. It ends up clogging the channels and creating several health challenges.
- Since being sedentary makes us weaker in our ability to handle toxins, including some foods in our meals that support liver detoxification can be very helpful. Leafy greens, including spinach, arugula, methi, and palak, are bitter and astringent and help detoxify the liver. Beetroot is also very helpful as it allows for smooth bile flow from the liver. When it comes to any food, more is not always better. Consuming large amounts of leafy greens, especially raw, can make things worse as it makes them difficult to digest.
- Sleep challenges are more common in those who live a sedentary lifestyle. All exercise and movement help to release BDNF, or brain derived neurotropic factor, which helps in sleeping. I see the case where those who do not exercise and those who over-exercise have the same sleep issues. It is hard to find a food that will compensate for being sedentary. But I would always stand by good, old-fashioned aged rice or basmati rice. Rice is sweet and cooling. Therefore, it is nourishing and helps to build tissue. It is also the most digestible grain, and this makes it lighter on a body that is weak in agni, as the case might be when there is a sedentary lifestyle. Combine it with some mung dal and ghee, and it will probably be the safest meal.
- Being sedentary is a contributing factor to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is fueled when agni is weak. Weak agni leads to the depletion of ojas which is our immune code. If we keep our foods easy to digest and follow the rhythms of circadian eating, we can support ourselves even when we are sedentary. This means having a lighter breakfast, lunch being the biggest meal at noon, and a lighter dinner close to sunset. Making lunch the optimal meal and making sure we include a sweet grain like rice, easy-to-digest protein, one leafy green and one sweet vegetable, with some ghee can keep the body in balance through a sedentary phase. Include richly coloured sweet vegetables such as carrots and pumpkins to help calm down inflammation.
How to avoid staying sedentary?
It is always best to avoid becoming sedentary. We have smartwatches and smartphones with multiple apps to remind us that we need to not be sedentary. At times, we are all guilty of setting up these notifications and ignoring them. Ask yourself this. Would you skip brushing your teeth of you have a busy workday ahead?
Similarly, every hour, get off your desk and stroll 1,000 steps. If you can switch from taking a cab to work to walking, do it! If your home is too far, get off one stop ahead and walk for half an hour. Stand at your desk and work for ten minutes every now and then. There are multiple ways to avoid staying sedentary.
Edited by Kanishk Singh
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)