It’s more important than ever to stay active especially during these WFH times. | Photo: Unsplash/@kennyzhang29
Sedentary behaviour is described as any activity involving sitting, reclining or lying down that doesn’t use up much energy at all. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is increasingly becoming a significant public health issue, as it is linked to a range of chronic health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Most people living a sedentary lifestyle are unlikely to meet the optimum health target of getting at least half an hour a day of moderate-intensity physical activity.
Here are some of the health risks associated with leading a sedentary lifestyle:
1. Cardiovascular disease
Even after researchers account for smoking, alcohol and a poor diet, studies show that physically active people are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are inactive. Muscles get weak over time with inactivity, making it more difficult to do something physical, which then ironically further causes a sedentary lifestyle.
Your heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to stay healthy, too. Physical inactivity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and poor circulation, potentially leading to high blood pressure, stroke and even a heart attack.
2. Lower metabolism
A sedentary lifestyle means fewer calories are burned, so being inactive means that most of the body’s ability to break down fat simply shuts down, leading to obesity and being overweight, both of which are triggers to a whole host of other diseases and medical conditions.
3. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Taking regular breaks to stand up and move around (ideally at least one minute of movement is recommended for every thirty minutes of inactivity), can help stabilise blood sugar levels after meals.
However, a prolonged sedentary lifestyle can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition where the body can’t regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) circulating in the bloodstream. Over time, these high blood sugar levels can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems, including kidney damage, nerve damage, vision problems, foot problems due to poor circulation and chronic skin conditions.
4. Chronic lower back pain
Being inactive all day and sitting all the time causes weakness in core muscles, which can mean lower back pain, especially with poor posture. Anyone who has had a minor backache can remember how debilitating it can be even at a young age.
5. Decrease in bone mass and higher risk for falls
Sedentary living increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. The older we get, the more difficult it is to maintain bone density, so fractures can become increasingly common with each fall. Unfortunately it’s also true each fracture will also contribute to a more inactive and sedentary lifestyle.
Over time, losing bone mass is inevitable, which can substantially increase the risk of injury from even minor falls. Aging individuals, in particular, may struggle with the impact of osteoporosis, which can lead to a stooped posture, increased back pain and even loss of height over time. In extreme cases, seniors who suffer the loss of bone density may become injured much more quickly, including fractures that occur from normal body stresses, like bending over or coughing.
While multiple factors can contribute to osteoporosis, doing some light physical activity such as walking can help stimulate the bones in legs and hips, helping them grow denser and increasing the amount of bone tissue present.
6. Reduced quality of sleep
One of the many health benefits of regular physical activity is that it helps you get good quality sleep each night, which is critical for the body to rest and restore itself.
While being physically active during the day can help ensure that you stay asleep through the night, being inactive means that you probably aren’t tired enough to sleep the ideal minimum seven hours a night, waking up tired. Studies also show that people usually tend to eat badly the next day after not sleeping well at night.
7. Deteriorating mental health
Sedentary living increases the risk for cognitive issues like dementia and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as the brain isn’t given any challenges or problems to solve, and isn’t active either.