You’ve heard of the risks of not exercising regularly, eating unhealthy foods in excess, and lying around the house. But the consequences of a predominantly sedentary lifestyle can be more serious than you think. Not only do these habits lead to more weight gain and being out of shape compared to a regularly-active person, but they can even cut your life expectancy if you aren’t careful.
According to the CDC, America has some disturbing levels of physical inactivity nationwide. Physical activity for adults is defined as not participating in running, walking for exercise, gardening, or other leisure-time physical activities. In a sedentary lifestyle, it can also be confusing as to whether you should add or subtract your calories to maintain weight.
The study revealed that all of America’s states and territories had more than 15 percent of adults who were physically inactive, and depending on the area, the estimate ranged from 17.3 to 47.7 percent. So what are the consequences of inactivity over a long period of time? Sedentary lifestyles can cause a slew of negative short- and long-term effects if a person doesn’t make any changes to their behaviors and habits.
Below is a breakdown of 10 possible effects of constant inactivity.
In This Article
This is an obvious one, but if you don’t move around very often to counter the foods you’re eating, you’ll burn less calories which could make it difficult or even impossible to lose unwanted weight. America is a top country in the world for obesity, largely due to mass consumption of unhealthy foods and inactivity.
It’s recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, which will help you burn calories and keep excess weight off your body. Even increasing your work around the house can help dramatically.
2. Heart Diseases, Heart Attacks, Coronary Artery Disease
Inactivity can lead to built-up fatty material in your arteries, and if they become clogged, you could suffer from a heart attack. The heart is a muscle that should be active regularly, just like your other muscles. Being physically active can help your lungs deliver more oxygen to your blood and lead to a healthier circulatory system.
In fact, being physically active can decrease the risk of heart disease or other circulatory issues by up to 35 percent.
3. High Cholesterol
The American Heart Association states that sedentary lifestyles can lower a person’s HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which means there would be less good cholesterol to remove the bad cholesterol from your arteries.
Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise—like brisk walking, swimming, yard work, or cycling—per week can reduce the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Additionally, using natural supplements to lower cholesterol levels may be an effective way to manage hypercholesterolemia. Research indicates that citrus bergamot may be one of the best herbs for lowering cholesterol. The benefits of citrus bergamot also include support for blood sugar management, as well as antioxidant properties.
4. High Blood Pressure
Sedentary activities can be difficult to avoid, because they often include what you do most of the day for your work, like sitting at a desk for up to eight hours a day. Inactivity on a regular basis can increase your risk of high blood pressure by 50 percent. Sedentary lifestyles lead to artery hardening and plaque buildup, which makes your heart work harder in pumping blood throughout the body, thus raising your blood pressure.
One in two Americans has high blood pressure. Increasing your physical activity, even by just doing some brief walks away from your desk periodically, can help manage or reduce the risk of conditions like hypertension.
5. Type 2 Diabetes
Prolonged sitting or other physical inactivity can lower a person’s metabolism, including insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. The CDC states more than 1 in 10 Americans had diabetes, with over 90 percent having Type 2 diabetes. Generally, Type 2 diabetes develops after the age of 45, but younger people with sedentary lifestyles can accelerate their chances of developing the condition if they aren’t careful.
Sprinkling in some physical tasks or exercises can be a small change that leads to big results in avoiding diabetes.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak and brittle. Much like muscles, bones can break down and grow weaker without being exercised. According to the Mayo Clinic, “any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.”
Osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures, which would leave you in a sedentary state for a long time and provide a difficult road to recovery.
7. Certain Cancers
A study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston used data from 8,002 adults aged 45 years and older who joined the ongoing REGARDS study between 2003 and 2007.
The results found that a sedentary lifestyle significantly increased the risk of developing and dying from certain cancers, particularly colorectal, endometrial, breast, and lung cancers. In fact, those with the greatest amount of sedentary time had a 52 percent higher risk of dying from cancer compared to those with the least amount of sedentary time.
8. Depression and Anxiety
Not only will your body suffer from a sedentary lifestyle, but your mind will also. Increased sitting, lounging on the couch, and staying inside have been linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Even sitting for prolonged periods of time can lead to these changes, so try and mix up the day by moving around, or consider trying a standing desk to burn more calories and be more productive at work.
If you work from home, go outside periodically, or work outside if possible. Taking brief walks can break up your day and leave you feeling happier, more motivated, and less stressed about your daily tasks.
As a general rule, being more active in your daily life will make you healthier and happier. You’ll be surprised at your improved mood and productivity if you make a small effort to be less sedentary in your everyday habits.
Consider standing while you work or taking time away from your desk for a few minutes each day. Exercise for 150 minutes per week in some form or another to get your heart rate up. Using a target heart rate calculator can tell you if you are not doing enough during your workout. Work on your garden, take the dog for an extra walk, or suggest walking to tackle a work meeting instead of all sitting in the conference room.
Inactivity is a slow killer and affects the United States disproportionately compared to the rest of the world. Do your part to improve the rates by improving your own health day in and day out.