The past few decades have seen an increase in the number of studies focused on the danger of sedentary lifestyles. Each and every one of them concludes that being sedentary for the vast majority of our day is doing us serious harm. Some studies even indicate that being physically inactive is worse for our health than smoking.
Yet, with this growing knowledge on the health implications of sedentary behaviour, inactive lifestyles are only becoming more and more common. We’re opting to drive when we could instead walk the distance, or we’re choosing to stay at home playing video games when we could be outdoors playing sports.
The consequences are clear; the public’s general health will continue to worsensimply because otherwise-healthy individuals are living sedentary lifestyles. Here are just some of the many ways that your health can be affected from not exercising enough;
One of the major health risks associated with being physically inactive is related to cardiovascular problems. An increase in blood pressure is common, as is deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
A number of cancers have been linked to sedentary lifestyles, such as endometrial, colon and breast cancer. Some researchers have pointed out that the underlying reason for an increased rate of cancer in inactive people is actually due to excess weight. Since being sedentary can also result in weight gain, and a higher body fat percentage can increase risk of cancer, the effect is indirect.
Type 2 Diabetes
According to one study, people who watch TV for more than two hours a day have a 20% increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Physical activity is known to release endorphins and improve our general mental health. It has been shown to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality. Remaining sedentary can result in the opposite – feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
Back and Neck Pain
There is a correlation between lower back and neck-to-shoulder pain amongst those who are seated for long periods each day. In one study, a positive connection was found between office workers taking regular breaks, and a 30% reduction in lower back pain or discomfort (compared to those who did not take breaks).
It is dangerous to let our muscles be inactive for most of the day, as it lets them grow weaker – especially dangerous for the elderly.
Closely related to muscle degeneration from a result of sitting is weaker bones. When we exercise, we stimulate our bones to grow denser and thicker. In recent years, there has been an increase in osteoporosis which many health experts put down to widespread inactivity.
What to do about it
Of course, leading a sedentary lifestyle isn’t always something we do out of choice. There are a number of jobs and circumstances that can require us to be seated for several hours each day. In these situations, there are usually a few small things you can do which make a big difference to your health.
If you work in an office, schedule regular break during which you stand up and walk around. This will get your blood flowing as normal again. There also exists office equipment designed especially for those who want to be active even when glued to their computers.
Under-desk cycling machines are one example; however you can also get a ‘standing desk’ or – better yet – a treadmill desk. Some companies will even compensate you for the purchase. It is in an employer’s interest, after all, that their workers remain healthy.
Some taxi firms encourage their drivers to park their taxi and step outside during lunch breaks, lest they be tempted to stay seated. Professional poker players, meanwhile, usually take advantage of the masseuses present at casinos and tournament venues. This helps alleviate tension in the back and shoulders.
For the most of us, it’s as simple as that. Change habits, pick up a sport to play in our spare time, take breaks more often and choose to stand rather than sit whenever we can.
For others, an illness or disability may render these tips impractical. In such cases, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor for information on the types of activities that you could instead do in a wheelchair or from bed.
According to experts, this generation of humans is the most inactive in all of mankind. The good news? You can be an exception!