The Risks of Living a Sedentary Lifestyle

Imagine spending the weekend on the couch, binge-watching your favorite shows, eating your favorite comfort foods, and maybe even drifting off into dreamland in between. If this describes your typical weekend, you are not alone. In fact, less than 5 percent of adults get more than 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

Living life as a couch potato might sound like heaven, especially when compared to the weight of your daily responsibilities. Slipping onto your recliner can provide temporary relief of the daily grind and alleviate some of the stresses that we all encounter with our jobs and family responsibilities.

Sometimes, you very much need rest and relaxation, but living a sedentary lifestyle carries enormous risks to your long-term health. In this article, we’ll explore what’s at stake and how you can combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

How a Sedentary Lifestyle Affects Your Health

To understand the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, let’s first explore what it really means to live such a lifestyle. Simply put, an individual who doesn’t move much and doesn’t engage in regular physical activity is leading a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity does not have to mean running marathons, either; even going for regular, brisk walks is considered a moderate activity that can lead to drastic health improvements.

What a Sedentary Lifestyle Looks Like

  • Frequently sitting or lying down
  • Playing video games
  • Watching television
  • Reading
  • Engaging in activities on a computer or mobile device
  • Anything that results in an extended period of low energy expenditure

What a Sedentary Lifestyle Does to Your Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that insufficient physical activity is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Indeed, the WHO reports that globally, 1 in 4 adults are not active enough.

Studies have shown a sedentary lifestyle to be a contributing factor in:

  • Some types of cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Obesity
  • Reduction in metabolism
  • Premature death

The cost of inactivity also affects your wallet. The diseases listed above can have an impact on your health care costs, as you will need to visit the doctor more often and leave with more prescriptions. The state of your health could also impact your access to life insurance and how much you’ll pay for it. It’s essential to reduce inactivity and increase your movement to benefit your own life and that of your loved ones.

How to Lead a More Active Lifestyle

Getting up and getting active does not mean you need to sign up for a triathlon. Taking a few walks around the block throughout the day is a great way to begin a regular routine that incorporates physical activity.

What an Active Lifestyle Looks Like

  • Monitor your steps per day. The average American walks between 3,000 to 4,000 steps each day. Aiming to walk 10,000 steps per day (approximately 5 miles) is an ideal goal to improve your health.
  • Stand rather than sit, even if you are working on a computer.
  • Pace back and forth while talking on the phone. It will help get those steps in!
  • Get up and stretch throughout the day. Talk short walks when possible. Consider visiting a colleague’s desk instead of calling or emailing.

What an Active Lifestyle Does to Your Health

By living an active lifestyle, you will likely experience the following health benefits:

  • Better sleep
  • Better weight management
  • Lower cholesterol
  • An immune system boost

The WHO reports that regular and adequate levels of physical activity will also:

  • Improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Improve bone and functional health
  • Reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer, and depression
  • Improve balance and overall strength

When you add active items to your to-do list, physical activity is built into your day. Many of your daily chores can include physical activity, like mowing the yard or vacuuming the house. These are items many people avoid doing, and some people even hire other people to complete such tasks. However, if you take over these activities and do these chores yourself, you organically add physical activity to your day.

Consider the benefits of:

  • Gardening, whether it’s a small window garden or a full backyard garden
  • Actively cleaning the house
  • Mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, and adding plants to the landscaping
  • Playing catch with the kids or fetch with the dog

Only 21 percent of adults receive the CDC recommended amount of daily physical activity. Research continues to show that living a sedentary lifestyle decreases your physical and mental wellness. Getting off the couch improves your health and well-being. Individuals that stay active improve their lives by taking an active approach to staying healthy.

Getting Enough Physical Activity Is Important

While the intensity of physical activity may vary based on your abilities and age, there are some general guidelines to reference. For most adults, the WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity throughout the week, or a combination of the two. Up to 300 more minutes can be added, along with muscle-strengthening activities two or more days per week. Individuals with poor mobility should still aim to perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls. Consult with your doctor to guide safe exercises.

Take the First Step

Becoming more physically active doesn’t have to mean getting an expensive gym membership or hiring a personal trainer. You can start by walking more. Walk around your block, or consider heading to a nearby mall for an option that’s indoors and doesn’t involve being near any vehicles. If you want to track your steps but don’t have a tech gadget to do so, consider looking for an inexpensive pedometer.

Even without one, you can rely on the number of minutes suggested above, and you should aim to take walks that total to about 150 minutes per week.

As always, your doctor can help to guide your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Discuss your plan to lower your health risk by increasing your movement. Your doctor can direct you to nutritionists, physical therapists, or trainers ready to help guide your plan.