In today’s world of desk jobs, TV-watching and video-game-playing, sedentary lifestyles are all too common. According to a 2010 review of numerous studies on this topic, adults are sedentary for 60 percents or more of their waking hours. Additional studies are now proving that a sedentary lifestyle can result in major risks to your health. Find out what these risks are and how to combat them.
The more you’re sedentary, the higher your risk for numerous diseases and other health conditions. Although it can take years or even decades for these conditions to appear, study after study proves that these potential health risks are not to be taken lightly. Here’s a look at what types of health issues you could face as a result of a sedentary lifestyle:
- Cancer: The risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer, increases for those who are physically inactive. Being physically active can decrease your risk of dying from cancer by about 40 percent.
- Diabetes: A sedentary lifestyle can increase the likelihood of developing insulin resistance, which is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes. One study found that every two hours spent watching TV increased a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
- Heart attack: People who live a sedentary lifestyle have the highest rate of heart attack. Being physically active for just a half hour a day can cut the risk for heart attack in half.
- Stroke: If you’re inactive, you may be increasing your risk of stroke. Men and women who are physically active can cut their risk of stroke by two-thirds and 50 percent, respectively.
- Blood clots: Sitting for long periods of time makes it more difficult for your blood to flow efficiently. This increases the risk of blood clots, particularly pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs). Women who take oral contraceptives should be especially mindful of this since those prescriptions increase the risk of blood clots.
- Inefficient immune system: A sedentary lifestyle leads to a less efficient immune system, making it easier to pick up colds, the flu and various illnesses and diseases.
In addition to increasing your risk for a variety of life-threatening health conditions, a sedentary lifestyle also has a negative impact on your body. The following are the physical issues you may have to deal with as a result of living a sedentary lifestyle.
- Weight gain: Sitting for most of your day is bad news for your waistline. The longer you are sedentary each day, the fewer calories you burn. And it gets worse – the weight you put on your body when you sit for long periods of time actually encourages your fat cells to create twice as much fat at a faster rate compared to when you’re standing.
- Changes in metabolism: When you spend a significant chunk of your day sitting still, your metabolism slows down. This can also contribute to excess weight gain.
- Loss of muscle: A sedentary lifestyle leads to a loss of lean muscle tissue. This is more serious than just looking less toned. It also makes it more difficult to complete normal tasks like grocery shopping and household chores. Older individuals or people with disabilities are especially at risk since it makes it harder to complete simple tasks like dressing and bathing, which can threaten their independence.
- Bone loss: Bones need to be used in order to stay strong and healthy, just like muscles. The more inactive a person is, the faster they will experience bone loss.
- Stiff spine: Your back can become extremely stiff and even weak from sitting all day. This can also affect your posture and lead to chronic lower back pain.
While the physical and health implications may be obvious, many people are surprised to learn just how much a sedentary lifestyle affects your mental state. Some of the serious mental issues that people who are physically inactive may face include:
- Depression: Since less movement decreases circulation and can lower the amount of mood-boosting hormones reaching your brain, depression is one mental issue that can affect those with a sedentary lifestyle.
- Dementia: Cognitive decline is one mental side effect of physical inactivity, especially among seniors. Older people who are physically active can actually decrease their risk of dementia by 50 percent.
- Memory loss: The brain’s memory center – the hippocampus – deteriorates naturally with age, but being physically inactive speeds up that process. Meanwhile, being physically active actually increases the size of the hippocampus.
If you spend a significant portion of your day sitting, you’re at risk for the health problems detailed here. What’s surprising to most people is that exercising regularly won’t change these outcomes. The key to decreasing these risks is regular exercise combined with a reduction in time spent being sedentary. So get up and move around when you’re stuck at a desk all day and spend less time in front of the TV whenever you can.
(Also read: Easy Ways To Become More Active & Less Sedentary.)