With the introduction of technology, we have thoroughly automated our lifestyles, using devices for the simplest tasks or perhaps using them to procrastinate. But unfortunately, this automation has played a decisive role in introducing sedentary lifestyles into the modern world.
What are the health issues commonly resulting from sedentary lifestyles? Research has proven that sedentary lifestyles pose various health risks, such as obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, heart diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and mental health issues like depression.
Continue reading to learn more about sedentary lifestyles and how they can stimulate such issues.
The terminologies “sedentary behavior” and “physical inactivity” are often used synonymously or interchangeably. However, it’s important to note that there’s a vast difference between the two terminologies.
‘Sedentary behavior’ in a 2017 paper published by the Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN), is defined as activities involving reclining, sitting, or lying down, with low energy expenditure/utilization levels. Energy expenditure is measured in metabolic equivalents (METs); according to SBRN, activities that release 1.5 METs or less energy are considered sedentary.
In 2008 the Department of Health and Human Services published Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans- in which they highlighted that adults require 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly to be considered ‘physically active.’
If an individual does not complete this threshold of 150 minutes of exercise, they will be considered ‘physically inactive.’ What is concerning is that according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 28% of adults aged 50 years or older remain physically inactive.
Therefore, it’s no question that public health in the United States needs betterment, and the first step to doing so is to bring about changes in lifestyles.
Sedentary behavior drastically reduces the movement of a person throughout the day, which ultimately means fewer or no calories are burned. It consequently results in weight gain and obesity.
And although a little weight gain initially may not mean much, a study published by WHO in 2021 proves otherwise. According to the study, approximately 2.2 million die yearly from obesity, increasing concern over the normality of a sedentary lifestyle in today’s world.
Sedentary activities such as lying on the couch for prolonged periods tend to diminish bone mineral density, leading to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a concerning medical condition because it leads to the bones reaching a brittle state where normal body functions such as bending over, coughing, or falling are enough to cause fractures.
Physical inactivity, as well as sedentary activities, tend to reduce the calcium present in bones and, therefore, stimulate osteoporosis. Moreover, since regularly exercising has proven to boost bone development, incorporating exercise into your routine can help ward off this disease.
Hypertension, otherwise known as ‘high blood pressure,’ is caused when your blood is rushing through your body beyond the required force. This process leads to the heart working too hard, causing negative side effects on your body.
According to NCBI, non-interactive sedentary activities such as watching television, sleeping, or lying on the couch contribute to greater risks of hypertension in people than interactive sedentary behaviors such as using a device or driving.
Therefore, this proves that although both interactive and non-interactive sedentary behaviors are harmful, interactive sedentary behaviors pose slightly lower health risks.
Lack of physical inactivity leads to the production of bad cholesterol, also known as LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein). Bad cholesterol levels affect the heart badly and restrict its functions- which means the heart can no longer supply oxygen to the body’s organs, tissues, and cells.
Once a person accumulates high cholesterol levels, excessive cholesterol begins to coat the arteries’ walls, causing a medical condition known as ‘atherosclerosis.’
When atherosclerosis takes place, arteries tend to shrink and become narrower. The now incompetent arteries restrict blood flow to the heart leading to it weakening and ultimately succumbing to the risk of a heart attack.
The health of the mind and body go hand-in-hand- lack of movement results in no dopamine production, leading to depression.
Individuals tend to feed depression by fulfilling their appetite for sedentary inactivity and lack of sunlight exposure.
However, due to the debate over the correlation of sedentary lifestyles to depression, NCBI conducted in-depth research and found two major discoveries about the link between sedentary activities and depression. According to the research, mentally passive sedentary behaviors would stimulate depression. These activities include television viewing, listening to music, sitting, etc.
On the other hand, people who were involved in mentally active sedentary behaviors were less vulnerable to depression. Therefore, the research proved that such activities, including reading books, and newspapers, attending a meeting, sewing, knitting, or driving, were not found to be activities that would stimulate depression.
Prolonged periods of sitting and sedentary behavior lead to the blood flow in the lower parts of the body slowing down, consequently causing the creation of blood clots that can travel to the heart and lungs.
Before blood clots start traveling through your body, it is strongly recommended to incorporate traveling (specifically walking) into your daily life. Small habits such as taking breaks from your office work to stroll will do much good in the long run.
Furthermore, research has found that an inactive lifestyle tends to elevate the risks of certain types of cancer, such as breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, and epithelial ovarian cancer.
After you have processed all the drawbacks of depriving your body of an active lifestyle, it is time to set some goals and begin working (or walking) toward them.
The first step is to set a fitness goal, and the second most crucial step is to achieve it by participating in active hobbies that you enjoy. Because following a sedentary lifestyle leads to various health issues, like obesity, hypertension, and osteoporosis, to name a few.