With society’s progress, it has become easier to acquire food and shelter with less physical exertion. People still work to provide for themselves and others, but the focus has shifted from physical to office work. Most jobs in the U.S. are office jobs where workers spend most of their day sitting down. A sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact your life, which is why we need to counteract its adverse effects on our health.
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
The phrase “sedentary lifestyle” refers to your activity level throughout your average day and how much of your day is spent in a sedentary state. From a scientific perspective, sedentary behavior involves sitting, reclining or lying down with low-energy expenditure. It considers how much time you spend sitting down instead of standing, walking or being otherwise active.
An inactive lifestyle can have a substantial impact on your overall health. Since the 1950s, the percentage of jobs leading to a sedentary lifestyle has increased to 83% in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. Millions of Americans lead sedentary lifestyles, even if they try to work out regularly.
Exercising at least 30 minutes per day does not change the sedentary character of your lifestyle. Research has found that if you regularly sit down for 10 or more hours a day, your health is still at risk despite getting regular exercise.
If you’re sitting for long periods of time, you may start seeing the effects of sitting disease regardless of how much exercise you regularly enjoy. “Sitting disease” is what some people have begun calling a sedentary lifestyle because of how harmful it can be.
Sedentary Lifestyle Side Effects
- Heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Increased cancer risk.
- Weight gain.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Loss in bone health.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Anxiety and depression.
How a Sedentary Lifestyle Affects Health
Having little to no exercise can have major repercussions for your health. Studies consistently show that a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and premature death. One particular study noted that regardless of activity level, people who sat for long periods of the day were at a higher risk for early death. That is why it is so important to regularly get up from a seated position and move around, as well as have a regular exercise routine. It is not sufficient to meet the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day if you spend most of your day in a sedentary state.
A sedentary lifestyle can also harm your mental health and well-being. Recent studies have shown that there is a link between a sedentary lifestyle and increased reports of depression. Another study has shown that people who lead inactive lifestyles are at a higher risk of developing other types of mental disorders. People who exercise regularly report that they experience fewer mental health disorders and episodes.
Exercises for a Sedentary Lifestyle
One way to counteract a sedentary lifestyle is getting up and moving regularly throughout your day. Investing in a standing desk is a great way to ensure that you’re not sitting through the entire day while also not detracting from your work day. Standing while working moves a person from the “sedentary lifestyle” to the “low-active lifestyle” classification.
Studies have noticed improvements when employees regularly change position from sitting to standing. This movement increases heart rate and could effectively prevent the adverse effects of sitting disease.
Getting up to stretch and take a brief walk every hour is a great place to start. Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up every 30 minutes while working at a desk. Start small and do not overly tax your body as you become more active. Going for a leisurely walk during your lunch break and doing some gentle yoga are excellent ways to get started without putting undue stress on your body.
It is important to gradually increase your activity levels if you’ve been living an inactive lifestyle. Going from a completely sedentary lifestyle to a highly active one can stress and harm your body. Remember to begin slowly and work your way up to your activity goals.
Adding bits of daily movement to your routine can be as quick and easy as a 20-minute walk or doing some yoga while watching your favorite TV show. You can also put on some music or a podcast and walk around your neighborhood after dinner, on your lunch break or before work.
It’s Time To Let Go Of Your Sedentary Lifestyle!
Although most jobs in the U.S. contribute to people having sedentary lifestyles, it is important to try and remain active to avoid some sitting disease symptoms. Getting up to stretch and go for a quick stroll regularly throughout the day can be a great way to add more activity to your daily schedule. If you’re currently living a completely sedentary lifestyle, consider discussing an increase in activity levels with your doctor.