In the midst of a global health crisis, people all over the world have been confined to their homes for prolonged periods of time. For most, this “new normal” has taken a toll in many respects. With our usual workout locations closed, our only option is to try staying active within a limited amount of space. And for those who are older, infirm, or who have health conditions that preclude outdoor exercise or vigorous physical activity in general, it’s become necessary to slow down.
While we’re all well aware that sitting around too much is bad for our health, we rarely examine the repercussions for our cells. So what are the cellular effects of this troubling lifestyle, and how can we guard against them?
The connection between sedentary living and telomeres.
Scientists have already demonstrated across various studies that regular exercise and maintenance of cardiorespiratory fitness are directly linked to better health. So it makes sense that when we can’t exercise, our cellular well-being inevitably takes a dive.
In one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, scientists examined the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on the preservation of telomeres, which function as the protective regions of our DNA. Found at the ends of our chromosomes, telomeres help maintain genetic stability.
As a consequence of cell division, oxidative stress, and inflammation, telomeres erode. This erosion serves as an indicator of cellular aging.
Regular physical activity is linked to reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, and several large studies have reported a beneficial connection between physical activity and telomere length. The evidence from the aforementioned study suggests that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to telomere shortening.
Another study published by the UCSD School of Medicine found that women who sat for 10 hours a day and exercised for 40 minutes or less had shorter telomeres than women who are more active.
And yet another study from the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that men and women who are less physically active in their leisure time experience expedited erosion of leukocyte telomeres compared to those who are more active.
Move your body.
So how can we guard against the debilitating effects of prolonged sedentary time, and protect our cells from eroding too fast? The first step: get moving.
If you have the ability to exercise, go for a run, jog or walk— even if that means finding creative ways to do so at home. The rush of endorphins will help your cells thrive, and will help your mindset as well.
You can also find a bevy of resources on the internet. In response to stay-at-home orders, droves of personal trainers, gyms and fitness studios are offering a variety of exercise routines online at no cost. From national chains to independently owned facilities, offerings span a wide range.
Whether you’re a yogi, a dancer, or a fan of circuit training, the only thing you’ll need to get active is the willpower to press play. This equipment-free 10 minute workout by fitness expert and ChromaDex advisor Jen Cohen is a great place to start.
Prioritize cellular nutrition.
If you want to double down on your cellular reinforcement, you can also consider adding a supplement to your wellness regimen. Supplementing with cellular nutrients can provide additional support for your cells. NAD+ supplements work to stimulate energy on the cellular level.
While NAD+ supplements don't replace the need for exercise, they afford an added layer of resilience and support as your cells reap the benefits of healthy physical activity.
And for those struggling to get active, NAD+ supplements help support the depleted NAD+ levels sedentary life inevitably triggers.
Strike a healthy balance.
Though it’s tempting to resort to extremes during trying times, it’s more important than ever to prioritize health and stay active. The next time you’re tempted to spend the day on the couch or overdo it on the burpees, think of the cellular consequences. If you strike a healthy balance between lounge time and physical activity and lend your cells some extra support with the right nutrients, you could emerge from this period feeling better than ever.