Staying active can help you to maintain a healthy weight range, keep muscles and bones healthy, and exercise could even provide mental health benefits. If you aren’t active, whether it’s because you’re spending too much time in front of the TV or even at your desk, then you could be putting your health at risk.
Learn what defines a sedentary lifestyle, and what could happen to your body if you don’t make changes soon.
What Exactly is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
Most people understand a sedentary lifestyle as one where there’s little physical activity, but that’s only half of the definition. Being sedentary means being seated, still, or desk bound for most of your waking hours. If you’re sedentary, you likely won’t perform anything too strenuous when you’re away from your chair.
Some people associate the word sedentary with people who are lazy. This isn’t always the case. People may be sedentary for various reasons, including specific types of employment, hobbies (such as video gaming), or even physical disabilities.
To determine whether you’re leading a sedentary lifestyle, ask yourself the following questions:
• Do you spend less than an hour each week performing moderate or strenuous physical activity?
• Do you prefer to spend your free time in front of the television or at a computer?
• Do you spend most of your work day behind a desk?
• Do you drive or take public transportation rather than walking or cycling?
• Do you avoid hobbies and other interests related to physical activity?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, especially the first one, then your lifestyle is sedentary to some degree. Even if you’re not overweight or experiencing health problems today, you could be setting yourself up for complications in the future.
Your health is worth protecting. Learn about the biggest dangers of being sedentary, and then look at some practical advice that will help you to improve your lifestyle.
Health Risks from a Sedentary Lifestyle
To understand why it’s so critical to stay active, take a look at the most significant health risks of being sedentary.
1. You’ll Likely Gain Weight
This one is incredibly simple to understand. Staying still means you will burn fewer calories. If you are consuming more than you burn, then you will eventually gain weight. A sedentary lifestyle also causes decreased muscle mass, making it harder for you to metabolize the calories that you do consume.
2. Being Sedentary Increases the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer everywhere in the world. There are many factors that can lead to heart disease and stroke. A sedentary lifestyle is one of them.
Staying sedentary affects circulation and can lead to the formation of blood clots in the lower extremities. These can travel to the heart and lungs, and in some cases are fatal.
If you gain weight from being sedentary, then your risk of developing cardiovascular disease will only increase.
3. Osteoporosis Can be Caused by a Sedentary Lifestyle
Low bone density, or osteoporosis, is a condition that affects much of the aged population. With sedentary lifestyles now becoming more common, this condition is being seen in younger people who would otherwise be healthy. Putting stress on your bones helps them to become stronger. This means keeping your muscles active as often as possible.
4. Chronic Pain Can Develop Over Time
Office workers who remain mostly sedentary are likely to develop chronic back and neck pain over time. Sitting for lengthy periods leads to poor posture, which places stress on muscles and joints. As muscles weaken, posture only becomes worse. The spine also compresses during extended periods of sitting, and this compression can become worse and sometimes irreversible over time. Herniated and bulging discs can be incredibly painful, and they’re relatively common in office workers.
5. Your Veins Will Stop Working Properly
Veins can develop a condition known as stasis if you remain sedentary for too long. Poor blood flow will lead to changes in pigmentation and the texture of your skin. As the skin weakens, there is an increased risk of developing ulcers and infections.
Stasis could lead to clotting, and an eventual pulmonary embolism. This can result in death if medical care is not readily available. You can maintain good vein health by becoming more active.
6. Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes Will Increase
Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of death in the developed world. While most people associate the condition with poor diet and genetics, being sedentary is also a risk factor.
When you don’t move often, you’ll have more unhealthy cholesterol in your blood. Your body will also struggle to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. Choosing to exercise regularly will increase good HDL cholesterol in your blood, while reducing the bad LDL cholesterol. Regular exercise also improves insulin sensitivity.
Staying active can help to prevent diabetes. For those already suffering from Type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can help to manage the condition.
7. You’ll Become Less In-Tune with Your Body
People who are mostly sedentary can find it hard to maintain balance and coordination. Motor skills and other perceptive abilities are rarely used when staying in front of a computer or television. Regular exercise will improve balance and coordination, protecting you from accidental physical injuries.
8. Remaining Sedentary Could Lead to Depression
In addition to the physical risks, staying sedentary could increase your chances of developing depression and/or anxiety. Staying active is good for the mind. When you exercise, your body produces ‘feel good’ endorphins that regulate mood.
Spending all your time sitting down could lead to a form of emotional malaise that is hard to recover from.
Tips for Becoming Less Sedentary
Deciding to become more active is simple. However, you’ll need discipline and motivation to stick with any new routine.
Here are some things you can do to turn your sedentary lifestyle around.
1. Start Exercising
This is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of long term health complications and disease. If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, then you’ll need to start things slowly.
Try walking for 15 minutes a day, moving up to 30 minutes within two weeks, and then up to one hour within the second month. The key is to not overwhelm yourself. If you don’t trust your own motivation and discipline, then consider paying for a gym membership with a personal trainer. This will keep you accountable for your lifestyle change.
2. Get Active in the Home
Being at home doesn’t mean you have to be sitting down. While everyone deserves to relax once in a while, you should aim to do small things that keep you moving.
Try taking on more physical tasks such as yard work and household cleaning. If you like to spend time in front of the TV or at a computer, then keep hand weights nearby that you can use to keep active at regular intervals. Invest in an exercise bike or even a treadmill. You will be surprised by how much better you feel.
3. Change the Way That You Work
Let’s face it; sitting isn’t natural. However, the modern era means that billions of people are trapped in front of desks for eight hours a day or even longer in many cases. Working behind a desk doesn’t mean that you must be sedentary.
Make small changes like standing when you are talking on the phone, take the stairs each day rather than the elevator, and set aside some of your lunch break for a 15 minute walk. You could also consider making the switch to a standing desk. This will help promote good posture and significantly reduce the risk of developing back problems and chronic pain.
You don’t need to go to extremes to end your sedentary lifestyle. Starting small and working your way towards a healthier balance should become your primary focus.
Enjoy a More Active Lifestyle that Protects Your Health
Humans aren’t meant to be sedentary and stationary. Remaining active can improve your mood, help you to stay in shape, and protect you from many of the most common long-term health complications.
Ending your sedentary lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do for your health.