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Sedentary lifestyle - a danger to health

Updated on March 20, 2015

A sedentary lifestyle has become widespread in all age groups in both developed and developing countries. A person who spends most of his or her time sitting is commonly called couch potato. The sedentary activities include sitting, reading, watching TV, playing video games, computer use etc. Now a day we spend lot of time watching screens such as TV, computer monitor or mobile phones. It is noteworthy that excessive screen time is associated with negative health consequences.

A sedentary lifestyle includes no reported physical activity or any physical activity done for less than 20 minutes a day and less than three times a week. The following universal glaring facts deserve the attention of all -

  • Globally, 1 in 4 adults is not active enough.
  • More than 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.

In fact, sitting for long hours is new smoking. We are sitting ourselves to death. The research has linked prolonged sitting to cancer, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Spending lot of time sitting also negatively affects blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and appetite hormone leptin, all of which are biomarkers for obesity and cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. This is independent of any regular physical activity. Studies have repeatedly shown the effects of long-term sitting are not reversible through exercise or other good habits. The only way to minimize the risk is to limit the time we spend on our butts each day.

Extended periods of sitting, typically at work, can affect every part of our being. The more regular is the routine, the higher the risk of developing health problems. The list of potential health problems resulting from a sedentary work life range from mental to physical and can last for several years.

Even prolonged sitting has been found to be a health hazard in children, who are unable to have adequate exercise due to their sedentary habits. Enough evidence exists about a negative effect of prolonged sitting on metabolic function for children, who spend at least 5 hours/day screen related activities. In addition, they noted a higher risk of hypertension among obese children, who watch more than 4 hours of TV daily.

It is well know that sedentary lifestyle habits increase with age. Women are more likely to lead a sedentary life than men. A sedentary lifestyle can be increase the risk of the following –

  • Type 2 diabetes -
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Stroke
  • Colon and breast cancer
  • Loss of vital lean muscle
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Increased risk for falls
  • Increased stress
  • Lack of energy
  • Weak immune system
  • Anxiety and depression

According to a recent research published on March 5, 2015 in Science Daily, it has been revealed that sitting for many hours a day is associated with increased coronary artery calcification which is a marker of subclinical heat disease. This can increase the risk of heart disease, which is a leading cause of death worldwide. It is estimated that approximately 35% of coronary heart disease mortality is due to physical inactivity.

Changing sedentary lifestyle –

Below are some tricks which we can use to bring some activity in our daily habits to change sedentary lifestyle.

Park at a distance – Instinctively, we all look for a place to park close to our destination. Instead, by parking at a distant place we can include some physical activity walking back to car. If we have a bag to carry, it will add to benefit due to walking.

Walk or cycle to work if possible - if you live in a place where the pollution is less and your workplace is relatively close by, choose to walk or cycle instead of driving.

Take stairs instead elevators – Use stairs for one or two floor. As you get used to it, increase the number of floors you use the stairs for.

Take a short walk during break – If possible, you can walk around during your break depending upon the location of the workplace.

Walk while shopping for grocery – Make it a habit to walk the entire store. Avoid the aisles that could tempt you to pick up junk food, since it can completely destroy any benefits of walking a few extra steps.

Do household chores – Do the household work as much as possible. You will get not only get some exercise but save money too.

Stand up often – If you have a desk job, stand up at least every 20 to 30 minutes. Take calls standing up. Moreover, standing up repeatedly maintains the circulation of blood by tuning up the sensors. Standing up frequently challenges the body with gravity. Standing desks are becoming more and more popular in offices. If available, you can use a standing desk.

Play with your kids – Take your kids out to the park and play with them.

Dance to your favorite music – Dance at home whenever you have some time. It is not only an exercise but a great way to unwind.

Choose to walk instead of phoning – Instead of phoning or sending an email to a colleague, walk over to them at your workplace.

Walk while phoning - Instead of phoning someone when sitting at your desk, get into the habit of pacing while you talk.

Be active during vacations – While planning vacations pick something that involves some walking and hiking. While taking in a new city, do it by walk, instead of driving around.

Limit the screen time – The parents or guardians should limit the recreational screen time for children to two hours only. The adults should also do the same for their own recreational screen time. Moreover, everyone should move a little after some long sitting especially during commercial breaks on TVs.

Encourage children to go outdoors – The parents should encourage their children to go outdoors to play or indulge in a physical activity that they like instead of spending lot of time indoors.

Bottom line –

The sedentary lifestyle is increasingly becoming common worldwide in all age groups in both sexes. And it predisposes us to the risks of many negative health consequences. It only requires us to be as active as possible to counteract the ill effects of the sedentary habits. It is significant to note that even exercise can not counteract the ill effects of the sedentary lifestyle. The only solution lies in minimizing our daily sitting time wherever we are. Since any physical activity is energizing, a person can boosts one’s energy level throughout the day by moving more and sitting less.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      3 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      I am happy to know that my hub has encouraged you to introduce some healthy changes in your lifestyle. Thanks for liking the hub.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      3 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      Dr Pran; this hub was very useful with useful tips. I have started using the stairs instead of taking the elevators and I was shocked at how hard it was at first. I would be so out of breath but now it has become easier and I do feel better. Since my car isn't working I have been doing a lot of walking and I must admit I have been feeling healthier and looking a little better too.


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