Sitting down for a large portion of the day only means trouble for your physical, mental, and social health. Upfront, staying sedentary may seem harmless, but in hindsight, it brings many adverse effects.
Having a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of developing chronic metabolic diseases, cancer, and other health complications. It also triggers mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and poor self-image. All of these lead to social isolation and loneliness.
Read on to find out how harmful sedentism could truly be.
A sedentary lifestyle or low-movement lifestyle is built around low activity levels in a day. It is characterized by spending the majority of time sitting, lying down, or staying still without any significant movement.
Although sedentary behaviors have long been recognized, they gained notoriety with the rise of desk jobs that promote prolonged sitting. In addition, other activities that stirred away from expending energy by being active became the norm. This includes watching television, reading, internet surfing, and many more.
Eventually, these activities were embedded in the daily routine of many. The battle between exercising and getting into physical activities, against staying on the couch, became one-sided, with inactivity taking the lead over the others.
It was only a matter of time before the sitting disease took the limelight on the global stage, especially since people sit an average of 4.7 up to 6.5 hours per day. Although we tossed the term sedentary activity around, it shouldn’t be ignored as its long-term effects can be life-threatening.
When people said that sitting is the new smoking, they weren’t entirely wrong. While prolonged sitting does not directly target your organs as smoking does, it brings with it fatal damage if left unaddressed.
Sedentary lifestyle effects span from the physical and mental to the social areas of living. All of which can be easily neglected until the consequences become hard to ignore.
Sedentary activities influence your health and wellness in multiple ways. But the biggest drawback of this lifestyle is the fact that you have a higher risk of developing various disorders. To make it worse, your mortality rate for these conditions also rises through the roof.
The following are diseases you’ll most likely develop as a result of sedentary activity.
Sedentary behavior is a significant driving force in the acquisition of cardiovascular disorders such as heart disease, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), hypertension, and stroke.
Lack of sufficient activity prevents proper use and de-accumulation of cholesterol that narrows the blood vessels, especially among men. As a result, your cardiovascular system becomes inefficient in its function, with clogged blood clots becoming a high risk.
Low activity means fewer opportunities for you to burn more calories aside from static metabolism. This means increased adiposity or cholesterol build-up leading to weight gain and even obesity. The relationship between sedentary behavior and obesity has long been established for this reason and more.
Sedentary behavior alters metabolism, which includes increasing insulin resistance that leads to high blood sugar levels. A 2022 study highlights the direct correlation of sedentary time with diabetes mellitus. It shows how your risk for diabetes increases with how long or often you have less energy expenditure.
Lack of physical activities and sedentary behaviors, along with obesity, already account for the increase in the risk of developing lung, endometrial, and colon cancers. In addition, It’s independently linked to an even higher risk of all-cause mortality, including cancer death.
Poor bone health is a direct consequence of low activity. As a result, bones become more fragile. This is particularly alarming for women, who have a higher susceptibility to developing osteoporosis or low bone density.
It’s not just your physical health that gradually suffers when you adopt sedentism. Your mental well-being is at stake, including your cognitive functions and emotional responses.
When you neglect physical activity, the brain loses opportunities to properly produce neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and various hormones that influence mood, emotion, and overall mental health.
For example, exercising and even light physical activities you can do at home can help produce serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters play crucial roles in many brain and bodily functions. But they are most notable for driving the sense of happiness and being the “reward center,” respectively.
Low levels of these neurotransmitters can drive mental concerns such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, the physical impact of sedentary activity, especially obesity, can pull down self-esteem and self-image, aggravating these mental struggles.
Adding up the physical and mental sedentary lifestyle effects, you can surely expect an imbalance in your social life as well. For one, the dwindling energy levels can leave you fatigued and out of focus, directly impacting your work and everyday routine.
In addition, other activities linked to sedentism can also pull you out of healthy activities like socialization. In the US, about 40% of Americans have become couch potatoes and would prefer spending their time in a passive state instead of increasing their mobility.
This decreases interest in engaging with others or making an effort to interact publicly. As a result, people miss out on the crucial benefits of socializing, such as improved cognitive functions, better memory, and a sense of belonging.
It’s easy to tell if you’re not active enough. For one, you need to ask yourself, when was the last time you exercised, did sport, or walked a long distance at least? If you’re doing minor chores or getting into physical activities to a lesser degree, it may not be enough – especially if you show the following signs of a sedentary lifestyle.
Plenty of sedentary lifestyle examples can be cited, especially now that we have the means and technology to limit mobility, such as booking food deliveries and ordering items online. But the following are the most common sedentary behaviors that often lead to prolonged sitting:
Practically, any activity that pushes you to sit or lie down for a long time counts as sedentary behavior. The rule of thumb is that if you remain in such a position for about four hours without moving an inch, it’s a driving force for the low-movement lifestyle.
If you are living a sedentary lifestyle, you have a higher risk for health problems like heart disease, vein-related disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety, and many more. Not only that, but you also have a higher all-cause mortality rate due to cumulative alterations in crucial functions such as metabolism, neurotransmitter production, bone and muscle endurance, etc.
Start deviating from a sedentary lifestyle by being conscious about your sitting time. Include exercise in your daily routine, get a standing desk, set the alarm for when you should stand, and be involved in activities that lead you away from your couch.
You can combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by gradually becoming more active. But again, how much you can reverse depends on the degree of consequence caused by years of low activity. Still, with guidance from a healthcare professional and your commitment to self-improvement, you can reclaim your health and wellness.
Poor health caused by a low-movement lifestyle is obviously preventable. But much like behaviors already embedded in your system, this could be easier said than done. Still, understanding the harmful risks of a sedentary lifestyle can give you the drive to take action in fighting the sitting disease.
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