NOV 10, 2023
Sedentary Lifestyle: Defined and Dismantled
In so many fitness blogs and articles you’ll often see the phrase ‘sedentary lifestyle.’ Clearly it’s bad for you but what is it exactly?
Read time: 6 minutes
In so many fitness blogs and articles you’ll often see the phrase ‘sedentary lifestyle.’ Clearly it’s bad for you but what is it exactly? A Sedentary lifestyle is when someone spends six hours or more of their waking day sitting or lying down. We can feel everyone who works at a computer suddenly seize up and realize “oh wait, that’s me.” Well don’t worry, we’ve gone over all the warning signs, the health risks, and simple ways to combat them, so keep reading to find out more.
A Sedentary Lifestyle - Recognizing the Signs
It's easy to fall prey to a sedentary lifestyle without even realizing it. But what's really concerning is not just the lack of physical activity, but also the array of health risks associated with this lifestyle. So, if you're wondering whether you're affected or not, let's delve into the signs that suggest you might be leading a sedentary lifestyle and explore the potential health risks involved.
Despite spending most of the day seated, do you feel unusually tired? When you live a sedentary lifestyle, your body can become fatigued due to the lack of stimulating movement, which can lead to decreased energy levels.
As with fatigue, sitting all day can interfere with your sleep patterns. So even though you might be tired, your body's natural rhythm can be thrown into disarray - making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.
This is one of the most noticeable signs. Without regular activity, your body burns fewer calories throughout the day, which can lead to weight gain even if you're not eating more.
Regular physical activity is proven to boost brain function. So if you're finding it hard to focus or you're suffering from 'brain fog', your sedentary lifestyle could be to blame.
Soreness and Pain
Sitting for long periods can cause muscle stiffness and pain, particularly in your back, neck, and shoulders. Poor posture while sitting can exacerbate these issues, leading to chronic discomfort.
Health Risks from a Sedentary Lifestyle
Of course, a sedentary lifestyle can do more than just make you uncomfortable, it can have serious long-term health implications. Here are some conditions linked to low levels of physical activity.
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that can be seen just under the surface of the skin, usually in the legs. They occur when valves in the veins do not work properly, and this condition can be exacerbated by prolonged sitting.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
This serious condition involves a blood clot forming in a deep vein, typically in the legs. Lack of movement can increase the risk of DVT, which can be life-threatening if the clot travels to the lungs.
Superficial Vein Thrombosis
Similar to DVT, this is an inflammation of the veins just below the skin's surface due to a blood clot. While it's less dangerous than DVT, it's still a painful and very serious condition.
A lack of aerobic activity can weaken the heart muscle, leading to a range of heart-related issues, including coronary artery disease.
Without regular exercise, it can be tough to control cholesterol levels, leading to higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
Sedentary behavior is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, as it can lead to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.
Also known as high blood pressure, this condition can be worsened by a sedentary lifestyle and can lead to further cardiovascular problems.
Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Physical activity is a proven stress-reliever. Without it, you may find your mental health suffering, with increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and risk of depression.
If you're seeing these signs and understand the risks, it's never too late to make a change. Small steps like incorporating short walks into your day, opting for a standing desk, or engaging in a hobby that gets you moving can make a significant difference. And it goes without saying that your body and mind will thank you for every bit of activity you can introduce into your routine. But how can we truly combat a sedentary lifestyle? Keep reading and we’ll show you.
Combating a Sedentary Lifestyle: Simple Exercises for Everyone
It’s a familiar scenario for many: you start your day with a commute to work where you sit for several hours, followed by an evening on the couch to unwind. This pattern, repeated day in and day out, is the hallmark of a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that breaking the cycle doesn't necessarily require a gym membership or expensive equipment. Here are some simple exercises that can help you combat the health risks associated with inactivity.
Walking - It might seem too simple or too obvious, but walking is a powerhouse exercise. It’s easy, accessible, and can be done almost anywhere. Whether it’s a brisk walk around the neighborhood or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking boosts cardiovascular health, strengthens bones, and aids in weight management.
Swimming - If you have access to a pool, swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that works all the major muscle groups in your body. It's particularly beneficial for those with joint issues or for whom weight-bearing exercises like walking are uncomfortable.
Push-Ups - Push-ups are a great strength-building exercise that you can do at home. They work a variety of muscle groups, including your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. If a standard push-up is too challenging at first, you can modify by keeping your knees on the ground.
Planking - This isometric exercise may look easy, but it’s a serious workout for your core. Holding a plank position strengthens the abdominals, back, and shoulders. Start with short intervals and gradually increase the duration as your core gets stronger.
Lunges - Lunges are excellent for improving balance, coordination, and for strengthening the legs and buttocks. They can be done with or without weights and are easy to integrate into your daily routine.
The Benefits of a Simple but Varied Routine
Adopting the above routine – or one which incorporates similar exercises – can yield tremendous benefits.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Walking, running, and swimming increases your heart rate, improving cardiovascular health. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, two conditions often linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
Builds Muscle Strength
Exercises like push-ups, planking, and lunges are weight-bearing and resistance activities, which help in building muscle strength. Stronger muscles can improve overall body strength, enhance endurance, and boost metabolism.
Enhances Flexibility and Balance
A varied routine that includes swimming and lunges can enhance your flexibility and balance, which is particularly important as you age.
Boosts Mental Health
Regular physical activity is a proven mood booster. It releases endorphins that help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which can be exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle.
Promotes Weight Management
Coupled with a balanced diet, these exercises help burn calories and build muscle, which in turn can help with weight management or loss.
By integrating these simple exercises into your daily routine, you can effectively combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Remember, the key to success is consistency and finding enjoyment in the activities you choose. So put on your favorite music while you plank, enjoy the scenery during your walk, or relax in the water while you swim. Your body (and mind) will reap the rewards.
Written by Matthew Stogdon
Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.