Sedentary Lifestyle: Challenges, Health Risks, and Effective Solutions

Most people in today’s world are living a sedentary lifestyle that involves sitting or lying down, both of which have minimum energy expenditure. To stay fit, it is essential to add activity to your life and build healthy habits that can help you tackle the adverse effects of sitting around too much.

What is a sedentary lifestyle?

A sedentary lifestyle is a lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting and lying around with hardly any physical activity or little movement throughout the day. Most of our leisure time spent sitting idle to watch something on Netflix, use a computer, or playing video games can be considered sedentary. Most of our jobs have become sedentary, with long days sitting at a desk, more so due to the global pandemic when people were stuck at home for the greater part of the previous year. Being a couch potato and leading an inactive lifestyle often leads to weight gain, reduced metabolism and poor blood circulation.

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Not exercising regularly gives rise to an inactive lifestyle that makes you prone to diseases. The metabolism of the body decreases, bones get weaker and often lose mineral content. It also might affect the immune system and lead to hormonal imbalance. Extended periods of limited physical activity impair the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, regulate blood pressure, or perform the breakdown of fats as it should. Leading a sedentary lifestyle even raises the risks of premature death.

Research suggests that less than 5 per cent of adults today perform 30 minutes of any kind of physical activity in a day. Another study with 10,381 participants disclosed that a sedentary lifestyle with minimum or no activity holds a greater risk of developing a mental health disorder. From a recent review derived from the data of 110,152 participants, researchers found a direct link between the sedentary way of life and a heightened risk of suffering from depression.

woman with back pain
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A lot of evidence reveals that exercise can consistently improve the mental health of people. A 2018 study conducted with 1,237,194 people established that those who did regular exercise were reported to have fewer mental health problems when compared to those who did not.

Time and time again, research has associated a sedentary lifestyle with severe health conditions like the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even premature death. Regular physical activity like exercise or sports keeps you fit and helps reduce the probability of contracting chronic health conditions. An idle lifestyle also negatively impacts our mental well-being as it affects the hormonal system. What makes a sedentary lifestyle particularly tricky is the blend of the physical and mental impact it has on our bodies.

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People can reduce the amount of time they spend being idle by increasing general physical activity

An active lifestyle significantly reduces the chances of mental disorders and the early ageing of organs. People can minimize the risks of an inactive lifestyle by increasing the amount of general physical activity per day and thus avoid health issues that emerge from spending too much time being sedentary. General physical activity may include daily tasks like walking up the stairs, going to the supermarket or walking around while on calls.

If you haven’t been active till now, you may need to start slowly and you can keep adding more exercise with time. You can take up jogging, swimming, join a dance class or just walk around for an hour in your neighbourhood park. You could take a Zumba class, get a gym membership or go for a quick run in the mornings. Exercise rejuvenates you from the inside, takes care of your organs and keeps you fit and young. It makes your skin beautiful, helps you lose excess weight thereby keeping you healthy, mentally and physically.

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Surely, modern advances make our lives easier, but they’ve made us adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle making us lazy over time. Less moving around and sitting more is linked to a number of health conditions that are actually harmful in the long run. One must exercise and make a conscious effort to fix the bad habits that have led us to such a sedentary way of life. It will take time and effort, but you must make this change first if you wish to avail the myriad benefits of exercise.

Most of us sit when we are working, probably in front of a computer. In fact, less than 20% of Americans have physically active jobs, thereby making physical activity a huge task to fit into one’s busy schedule. Whether you’re stuck at a desk all day or looking for some motivation to start, here are a few ideas to help you get moving at work or while at home:

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  1. Get up from your chair and move around for a minimum of 1 hour
  2. Stand or walk whenever you are on a phone call
  3. Prefer standing rather than sitting on public transport
  4. Take the stairs and ditch the elevator whenever feasible
  5. Use your break or part of your lunch hour to walk around the building
  6. Help your spouse or roommate finish daily chores at home or offer a helping hand at gardening
  7. If you don’t have an access to the gym, lift light weights and do some stretches at home.
  8. Take up running or get an exercise bike for yourself.
  9. Go for a walk in your neighbourhood to walk your dog, or walk with a friend.
  10. Have standing or walking meetings with colleagues instead of sitting in a conference room
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