There are many health risks of a sedentary lifestyle, and that’s why people are saying, ‘sitting is the new smoking’. Be wary of health problems associated with being too sedentary or too inactive. If you are mostly tied to your desk chair in the office, and then you relax on the couch as soon as you get home, you are living a very sedentary lifestyle with little physical movement. Sadly, that could mean a possible heart disease in the making, resulting in shortened life expectancy.
Heart disease is now the number one cause of death for adults worldwide and being too immobile, still or sedentary is very bad for your heart. The World Health Organization attributes 2 million deaths annually to being sedentary or physically inactive, which is also dubbed as ‘Couch Potato Syndrome’ or ‘Sitting Disease’.
If there are 2 million deaths each year attributed to a sedentary lifestyle, that should indicate that the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle are serious.
Sedentary behaviour equates to a lounging state, like constantly sitting down or reclining while watching TV for extended periods of time. Clinically, this state is characterized by energy expenditures less than or equal to 1.5 METS (metabolic equivalents). If you find yourself in this kind of situation, read on to know more about the ill effects of staying sedentary. Hopefully, the knowledge will inspire you to get up and move.
Breaking up your sedentary day with some periods of activity (even if it’s just getting up to go for a walk outside) could do wonders for your health. Below are some examples of serious health risks of a sedentary lifestyle:
The antonym or opposite meaning of the word ‘sedentary’ is ‘active’. One of the primary consequences of inactivity is weight gain, resulting in obesity. Why does this happen? Most inactive people do not burn enough calories, leading to excess weight. Unfortunately, excess fat on the body will increase your risk for heart problems such as:
- Heart disease
- High bad cholesterol levels
- Heart failure
Being overweight coats your organs in fats. As a result, it restricts your blood vessels, resulting in poor circulation. Your heart will then pump blood a lot harder than it should, resulting in weakening and damage. The worst-case scenario is an eventual heart attack or stroke.
On top of that, these heart issues are also often linked with diabetes and kidney disease. No wonder studies show that obesity leads to 300,000 premature deaths with a higher incidence in those who sit more than 5 hours per day.
Decreased Blood Flow
As early as an elementary science class, everyone learns that an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless an external force is applied to it. The same applies to human beings and their habits and behaviour. If you continue a sedentary lifestyle, it will inhibit your growth and cause health deterioration. Some of its harmful consequences are muscle stiffness and loss of flexibility.
And that’s a horrible thing because blood flow remains sluggish when muscles are restrained from inactivity. So the more you remain seated or at rest, your glutes, hip flexors, abs, and other muscles remain tight. Besides, lack of activity will increase the chances of clotting in the leg veins (known as deep vein thrombosis), resulting in pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
Have you ever overslept and felt worse upon waking up? Ironically, getting an excessive amount of rest will just make you feel more tired. One of the causes of chronic fatigue that might surprise you is a sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity will perpetuate chronic fatigue. Unfortunately, most sedentary people blame fatigue as the culprit for feeling lazy to exercise. They don’t feel like moving because they lack energy, and they lack energy because they do not move.
However, this causality is backward because a sedentary lifestyle is never a product of fatigue, but it may actually be the culprit for their lethargy. Chronic fatigue is dangerous because it refers to both physical and mental exhaustion. It can impact your quality of life and increase mortality.
When you don’t exercise, inflammation and pain will follow. Remember, your body becomes stronger with movement. If you subject it to stress like weight training or cardio, it rebuilds itself and fortifies your tissues to meet future demands. Conversely, your body plateaus and eventually becomes weaker over time without exercise leaving you feeling tired all the time.
Sluggish Metabolic Rate
The word metabolism refers to all the chemical processes in your body to produce energy. For example, every person burns food and drinks, then converts that into fuel to perform what the body needs to carry out daily functions for maintenance. Your metabolic rate refers to how fast your metabolism is.
Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle adversely impacts your metabolic rate. You feel a decrease in your energy levels, feeling more lethargic. Worst of all, studies show that inactivity can lead to a lot of metabolic-related dysfunctions such as:
- Hormone imbalance
- Altered circulation of sex hormones
- Insulin resistance
Sadly, the poor metabolic function can result in a rapid downward spiral of your overall health. This will increase your chances for heart disease, diabetes, and hormone-related cancers like endometrial or breast cancer.
Poor Mental Health
Your mental health is also at risk when you live a sedentary life. You increase your chances of depression and anxiety when you stay indoors with minimal movement and little contact with the outside world. Besides, it can increase your predisposition for dementia. In fact, a recent study in the Journal for Alzheimer’s noted that sedentary behaviour raises your risk for dementia just as much as genetic factors.
A physically active lifestyle can make your brain function more effectively. Remember, body movement stimulates endorphins, also known as happy hormones. When you move, the endorphins in your body interact with receptors in your brain, triggering a positive feeling which bolsters your mood and motivation.
Deteriorating Bone Health
The human body is perfectly engineered with interconnected bones and muscles, which are all meant to keep you upright and assist you in moving. The bones are naturally designed to bear the weight of your body. You also have joints that promote ease of movement. The way the body works proves that you should not stay stagnant in one place most of the time.
If you do not move, it can lead to a deadly disease called osteoporosis. This is a condition wherein your bones weaken and become more brittle. With poor bone density, a simple fall can lead to a major fracture. Osteoporosis typically runs in families, but a sedentary lifestyle will promote its onset. It will also aggravate spine issues and result in poor posture.
Fend Off The Health Risk of a Sedentary Lifestyle
It’s not enough to talk about the ill effects of staying sedentary. This modern “disease” is now affecting young and old alike at an alarmingly fast rate because many are addicted to staring at their gadgets.
Remember, you combat the adverse effects of a sedentary life by making conscious choices to stay active. Sometimes, making little changes will help to keep you moving. For example, you can try these baby steps:
- Start taking the stairs instead of using the escalator and elevator.
- Take frequent mini-breaks at work to walk around and stretch out your legs.
- Park your vehicle far away from the entryways to encourage you to get your steps in.
- Make it a habit to pace around and walk while speaking on the phone.
- Stay inspired by tracking your steps with a fitness app or Fitbit watch.
- Consider doing home workouts with various fitness channels on Youtube.
Research continues to prove that regular exercise is essential for good health. So if you want to improve your quality of life and increase your life expectancy, kick your bad sedentary habits to the curb.
You may have an underlying health condition if you find it difficult to find the energy to move. Speak to your doctor to get to the root of the problem. Taking a CircleDNA test may also help reveal your genetic health and disease risk factors. On top of that, results will indicate which physical activities are most suited for your unique genetic profile. This test may be the inspiration you need to find the right exercise routine that you can stick with.