Our bodies were made to move, yet our modern lifestyles mean we log a lot of sedentary hours. That’s particularly true if you spend a lot of time in the car, work at a desk, or get sucked into steaming television shows nightly. Combine all three, and it’s easy to slip into being sedentary most of the time.

Scientific research consistently highlights the numerous benefits of staying active throughout the day. From enhanced cardiovascular health to improved cognitive function, the positive impacts are profound and well-established. Learn why regular physical activity is important for your health and well-being, and how Oura can help you get more. 

READ MORE: How Oura Measures Steps & Activity

7 Benefits of Staying Active

1. Your brain gets a boost.

Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which helps you to think more clearly. Regular exercise increases the production of neurotrophic factors that support brain health and cognitive function.

2. Your circadian rhythm stays aligned.

Movement in your muscles signals to the rest of your body’s internal clocks that it’s time to stay awake, helping you remain alert and perform at your best.

3. You’ll probably experience an improvement in mood.

When you exercise, you release mood-boosting endorphins and neurotransmitters, while stress hormones, like cortisol, lower after a workout.

4. Your blood and lymphatic circulation may improve.

Exercise increases blood flow and the movement in your lymphatic system, helping deliver nutrients and remove waste across your body.

5. Your cardiovascular health may improve.

Exercise isn’t just a workout for your body; it’s also a workout for your heart – helping your system become stronger and more resilient. During exercise, you increase blood circulation, enhance cardiac output, and increase the flexibility of blood vessels.

6. Your metabolism aligns with your body’s needs.

Staying active uses up your body’s energy resources rather than forcing your body to store them in undesirable places (e.g., as fat around your internal organs).

7. You’ll support your immune system.

During your workout, the production of free radicals increases, which prompts your body to adapt by upregulating its antioxidant defenses and strengthening your immune system.

8. You’ll sleep better.

Staying active helps you feel tired at the end of the day, allowing you to fall asleep more easily. When you track your sleep with Oura, you may notice specific sleep contributors (like latency or sleep efficiency) improve after a workout. This can be the motivation you need to keep it up.

Member Story: We asked Oura members what helped them improve their heart rate variability, and “regular exercise” was one of the most common answers. HRV is an important indication of health and stress levels.

The Downsides of a Sedentary Lifestyle

When you spend most of your time in a sedentary state, you increase your risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Obesity
  • Lower skeletal muscle mass
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Higher cholesterol
  • Poor sleep 

READ MORE: Why Sleep Matters & How It Impacts Your Health

Easy Ways to Get More Movement In

Member Tip: With Oura, you’ll get inactivity alerts when you’re inactive for 50 minutes. When you receive this notification, you have 10 minutes to reset it. To do so, take a brief walk, or stretch for a few minutes.

If you have a busy week of intensive days at your desk or in meetings, try these strategies for staying active.

  • Walk to lunch: Try picking a restaurant that gives you the opportunity to take a longer stroll and consider inviting colleagues to join in.
  • Find what you enjoy: Time flies when you’re having fun, so find a form of exercise that you truly enjoy – whether it’s a Zumba class, hot yoga, or ultimate frisbee. A conventional running or weightlifting program might not be right for you, and that’s okay!
  • Break up hour-long meetings: Rather than defaulting to 60-minute meetings, try shorter sessions or ending early. Even ~55 minutes gives you the chance to stretch your legs in between.
  • Try a walking meetings: If you have a brainstorm with colleagues, consider moving the meeting outside the office. Moving while you talk can remove the likelihood that people are distracted by phones or emails and may inspire more creative ideas as well.
  • Do it with a friend: Sign up for a fitness program and yoga class with a buddy. This can keep you accountable, making it more likely you’ll stick with the plan and follow through! 
  • Take the stairs: Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator. This small adjustment rarely adds more time to your day, but does get your blood pumping in an easy and effective way.
Member Story: Oura member and Activity Product Manager Maris J. explains why movement is so important, and shares her own experience in fitness spurred her to join Oura. 

READ MORE: The Benefits of Low, Medium, and High-Intensity Exercise