What a balanced lifestyle can do for your mental health

Living a balanced lifestyle could ultimately be better than an over active or under active lifestyle.

Juan Carreon (created with Canva)

Living a balanced lifestyle could ultimately be better than an over active or under active lifestyle.

Studies show that people who have a sedentary (characterized by much sitting and little physical exercise) lifestyle for more than twenty years double their chances with mortality risks. And that seems like a long stretch of time considering most modern jobs involve a lot of sitting, even disregarding that most people when they get home tend to want to relax. This has been an ongoing issue in all communities from the super young to the elderly.  This is especially evident in the American Education System particularly in seniors who are reaching the end of their public education and are feeling depleted. So much in fact that the phenomenon has been given a name, senoritis, which is normally accompanied by a lack of motivation. But what exactly are the health effects of such a sedentary lifestyle?

First you have to consider what are the many factors that could contribute to the sedentary habits, the main one being that most students spend the majority of their day sitting down. Elementary school students are taught from a young age to contain their excitement and energy in order to sit down calmly. Then when they move onto middle school where exercise and participation become a grade, they can get discouraged to try for fear of failure, or just find it pointless in its entirety. Then all of this gets truly cemented when they are tired of the P.E requirement or it becomes a sport requirement. So at the end of their education they find exercise to be pointless and tedious. That isn’t to say that some students don’t enjoy exercising, however most of them find themselves disliking it. 

This becomes a more serious issue when you consider the health problems that accompany a sedentary lifestyle, which include cardio-vascular disease, cancer risks, hypertension, musculoskeletal disorders, cognitive impairment and even depression. And although these symptoms don’t happen overnight, routines definitely form as teenagers repeat these habits. Most people when they get home whether it be from school or work are exhausted and just want to relax and especially with streaming services that cross platforms, and other modern conveniences that encourage you to stare at a screen, getting the motivation to do anything other than relax is difficult. 

Along with the physical problems that accompany a sedentary lifestyle there are plenty of effects on the mental side. These include sleeping disorders, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. 

This can only be amplified by outside forces that can leave anyone drained and unmotivated. With the modern perception of teenagers being lazy, it’s almost outstanding when they are motivated to do well academically and physically. Notable at MCHS we have the participants for Wizard for Water, students who train to participate in the OC half marathon,  to raise awareness and money for the World Vision, which is an organization that provides water for children in Africa .

Students have thoughts about how their lifestyles affect them physically and emotionally.

Senior Deborah Sanchez, a participant of Wizards for Water, explains that her lack of motivation affects her lifestyle more than she had realized.

Sanchez said,” I definitely do think it does. Before I started going to the gym and running for Wizards for Water I felt like I wasn’t motivated to do school work and my mood was a *thumbs down gesture*.” 

Senior Lucia Martinez, another Wizards for Water participant,  talks about her struggle with being inconsistent with working out. 

Martinez said, “I struggle with consistency to improve my lifestyle. I would say that my life is occasionally active, maybe even seasonally. Sometimes when I run I feel satisfied almost as if I worked hard to accomplish something. I definitely believe that when I workout, I feel happy with myself.”

Senior Brianna Cazales, another participant, also describes how her lifestyle can sometimes affect her  self-worth in the sense that she feels better with every improvement to her lifestyle after previously not training all that often. 

Cazales said,” I think in total maybe 3 hours a week I am active, but I plan to run more so hopefully I can increase my activity. I like that I know how to cook healthy foods for myself and I dislike that I don’t workout as often as I should.”

So there is clearly an effect that one’s physical activity can have on the individual mindset that can only be amplified by the type of lifestyle they live. With the overall theme being that a sedentary lifestyle normally negatively affects your mindset.  

However, that doesn’t mean that living a more active lifestyle will immediately improve your mindset or emotional state. When asked what they dislike about their lifestyles both had something to say. 

Sanchez explains how being active is a time consuming commitment.

Sanchez said, “The only thing I dislike about it is how much time it consumes because I have other responsibilities.” 

Cazales also explains that it has somewhat of an opposite effect and how it doesn’t really interfere with her life that much. 

Cazales said, “When I’m active, it gives me time to release stress and also makes me more tired so I sleep earlier. When I’m not active for a long period of time, I feel a little disappointed.”

It all comes down to balance; going too far in either direction could be dangerous. The active lifestyle obsession could turn into a hyperfixation and become incredibly time consuming. And the sedentary lifestyle could be putting in place habits that could lead to devastating health repercussions.   

However the mental or physical aspects aren’t the only thing a sedentary lifestyle can affect for most people my age; they have academic obligations. And with the overall theme of a balanced life a sedentary or extremely active lifestyle could pose a threat. 

When asked if their lifestyles affect their academics students don’t know for sure whether their lifestyles affect their academics.

Sanchez said,” I don’t think so well it can, at times but I try to let it not consume my life.”

Martinez said, “Recently, I have been active almost every day with running and dance practice. As a part of the Wizards for Water Club, members needed to abide by a training schedule. As for the dance team, we have practice after school from 3-5 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday. In total, I think I am physically active for at least 8 hours in a week.” 

They are both going into professions that will require commitment. Most jobs follow the 9-5 structure and entail sitting down.. Which means having these habits forming at such critical ages could pose a threat. As if the sedentary behavior wasn’t cemented enough during their education, their 9 to 5 desk job could be the final nail in the coffin. Which is why balance is incredibly important. And the bad thing is most people don’t realize that they’re slipping too far in either direction of hyperfixation. With hyperfixation being the complete absorption into one task, and in this case it’s exercise. And when you consider that a sedentary lifestyle is normally linked to depression that is just an invitation for something known as anosognosia which is when a person doesn’t realize how bad their mental health has gotten or a failure to accept it. And when talking about behavioral patterns that lead to a more sedentary lifestyle that causes health problems the longer it happens, it can become a slippery slope. 

It doesn’t help that modern conveniences have made it easier than ever to complete average chores that would require some physical effort with the click of a button.For example shopping for groceries can now be done over the phone, and little robot vacuum cleaners can be bought that clean the home for you. So even though it may appear to be a life of luxury it ultimately causes long term harm in exchange for immediate satisfaction.

In conclusion, taking care of one’s health should be top priority and it’s easy to forget sometimes that just because the effects aren’t immediate like poor diet and exercise, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect your health in the long run.