A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has confirmed something that we have been hearing for pretty long – having a sedentary lifestyle or sitting still for long is really, really bad for you.
After examining the data of over 2000 participants, researchers at the University found that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to cardiovascular issues, irrespective of your exercise routine. That means sitting is even harmful for those who get regular exercise!
The findings show that sedentary behaviors are directly linked to cardiovascular health. So, while activities like exercising regularly can improve your heart health, time spent sitting is not just neutral. It actually chips away from your fitness gains.
As per the UT Southwestern Medical Center, two hours of sitting can take away the health benefits of 20 minutes of workout. We don’t like this math because it simply means that even if you work out for an hour daily, you can lose it all by sitting at your desk during a workday.
This is precisely why learning how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle at work and home is of paramount importance. With as many as 15% of American adults being physically inactive, a sedentary lifestyle can harm our health as a country.
In this blog post, we will dive deeper into how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and cope with its effects. But first, let us understand what having a sedentary lifestyle actually means.
What Is The Meaning Of A Sedentary Lifestyle?
As per the Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN), sedentary behavior is when a person sits or lies down while driving, watching television, working, reading, etc. Performing sedentary behaviors for more than six hours daily and not meeting recommended physical activity guidelines lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
SBRN defines a sedentary lifestyle as an accumulation of waking behavior that consumes less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents in sitting, lying, or reclining positions. Sedentary lifestyle effects include unhealthy weight gain, cardiovascular risks, and much more.
Symptoms Of A Sedentary Lifestyle
Human bodies were not built to be stationary for long periods. Historically, if a person spent as much time sitting or lying down as we do currently, they would have starved, or a predator would have eaten them instead.
Nowadays, while hunger and predators might not hurt you, something else will. That something would probably be chronic diseases or premature aging.
The worst part is that it doesn’t take long for sedentary behaviors to start affecting your health. Research shows that only two weeks of inactivity in physically healthy young people can cause pretty significant health effects.
This is why learning what are the symptoms of a sedentary lifestyle is essential. Here are the typical characteristics of a sedentary lifestyle:
- not participating in regular physical activities,
- being too passive in life,
- spending too much time watching television or playing video games (not doing enough physical activity),
- driving or using public transport instead of walking,
- spending a lot of time sitting at work, college, or home,
- not having any hobbies that have a physically active element,
- spending more than half your waking time not moving,
- feeling fatigued all the time, etc.
Causes Of A Sedentary Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is characterized by low physical activity with extended periods of sitting or inactivity. Several factors come into play that are causes of a sedentary lifestyle. These include the following:
1. Desk jobs: The post-covid era has us working from home and spending even more time on our desks or computers. Such grueling work hours are one of the biggest causes of a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Technology and screen time: We live in the dawn of technology. With increased dependence on smartphones and our ever-growing binge-watching tendencies, sitting time is at an all-time high.
3. Lack of access to safe open spaces: With increasing urbanization, more and more open spaces are now covered with buildings, leaving little space for recreation. Additionally, many communities have limited access to safe spaces like parks, sidewalks, etc.
4. Transportation: What do you do when you have to go out, even if it’s probably a few miles away? You instantly book a cab or use another mode of transportation. Our increased dependence on vehicles is also one of the biggest causes of a sedentary lifestyle.
The Dangerous Effects Of A Sedentary Lifestyle
Having a sedentary lifestyle can really do a number on your body, and it is definitely worse than you think. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition saw the effects of a sedentary lifestyle as significant health hazards.
What’s worse – the harmful effects of sedentary behaviors can go far beyond just the obvious things. While it can hurt your heart and increase your chances of gaining extra weight, it has other lesser-known effects, too. A sedentary lifestyle can affect your moods, mental health, and blood sugar.
Here are the biggest implications of a sedentary lifestyle on your body:
1. Heart Problems
One of the most obvious and most documented effects of a sedentary lifestyle is heart problems. Sitting for extended periods means your body is not burning as much fat as it should, slowing blood circulation. This gives fatty acid a better opportunity to clog your blood vessels, leading to serious cardiovascular problems.
2. Cancer Risks
A review research paper in 2021 found that having a sedentary lifestyle can increase the chances of having several types of cancer. It is also estimated that 30-40% of the risks of developing cancer can be reduced by incorporating lifestyle changes, including being more active physically.
As per a 2020 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, having a sedentary lifestyle can increase the amount of blood sugar in your body. The results showed that decreasing sitting time and adopting an active lifestyle can significantly reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
4. Fuzzy Thinking and Decreasing Memory Power
Apart from your physical health, your cognitive health also suffers due to sedentary behaviors. As per research by Transactional Psychiatry, older adults with a sedentary lifestyle are just as likely to develop dementia as those with a genetic predisposition toward the condition.
Apart from this, sitting down and working can actually make you concentrate less on the task at hand. Ironic right? This is because, while sitting, less blood is pumped into your brain, slowing your cognitive abilities.
The painful after-effects of slouching on your desk in the office can extend way beyond your work day. Sitting consecutively for as little as four hours can put pressure on your lower back. This can lead to the degeneration of lower back disks, one of the biggest reasons behind your agonizing back pain.
6. Mental Health Effects
Apart from implications on your physical health, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle can encroach on your mental well-being, too. So, if you have been feeling down lately, blame your chair.
How To Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle?
If you are someone who spends a lot of their time sitting, here’s some good news. While sitting and having a sedentary lifestyle can have a lot of negative implications on your life, you can counter these in many different ways.
To help you get started, we have compiled a list of tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle at work and home. Let’s get started.
Tips On How To Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle At Home
1. Walk it out.
Whether outside or inside your home, walking is one of the best tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Walking is the perfect and easiest way to get your body moving. You have probably heard of counting steps through smartwatches or Google Fit. These can serve as great motivators and trackers for your overall physical activity.
But how many steps do you actually need? Experts say anything between 4000-18000 steps is good enough to avoid having a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Clean it all.
Cleaning is one of the best and most efficient tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Why? Because you are not just cleaning the house and making it look great, but you also get to move around while channeling your inner Monica Geller energy.
Focus on activities like scrubbing or vacuuming the room. They get you moving and are also suitable for your arms.
3. Cook up those moves.
Another efficient way to get moving at home is to start cooking.
While regular cooking might be less physically intense, you can create your own cooking routine. So, the next time you are in the kitchen, flit across the room to get utensils, stretch to open and close drawers to get ingredients, and squat while the water boils. To make it even more fun, turn on the music to cook up some dance moves along the way.
P.S. Make sure to be careful with acrobats in the kitchen.
4. Make the most of your television time.
Let’s be honest; we live in an age where thousands of hours of content, stretching across genres, is available to us at the click of a button. And no matter how much we tell you to cut your screen time, we understand how difficult it is. So rather than sticking to your couch while binge-watching your Netflix show, work out in that time.
If you have some sort of exercise machine like a treadmill, etc., park it in front of your television and start exercising while you watch television. If you don’t, put a mat in the living room and start stretching or bodyweight exercising as you binge-watch.
5. Get a pet dog.
Now, by this, we don’t mean that you should get a dog right now. All we are saying is that if you have been thinking about having a dog for a long time, this is your reminder to adopt one. It can really help with your daily physical activity levels.
This is one of the best tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle because being active is important for all dogs, and that way, they make sure you are active, too.
Whether you are taking them on regular walks, playing chase with them, or just tackling them down from wreaking havoc at home, having a pet dog makes you accountable for your and your pet’s activity time.
Tips On How To Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle At Work
1. Walk while taking phone calls.
Unlike in-person meetings, video conferencing and phone calls are perfect for hitting those daily step targets. Try to reduce the time for video conferencing whenever possible and opt for phone calls instead. Then, put some wireless headphones on and start walking. This way, you can easily continue your work interrupted while consciously trying to be more active.
2. Don’t just sit, stand!
Sitting for long periods for a stretch is not good for your posture, heart health, and overall body. Therefore, standing at your desk is probably one of the best tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Standing height-adjustable desks are a rage nowadays, and we couldn’t be happier. While they aren’t an antidote to the whole problem, they certainly help to a good level.
3. Incorporate stretching, walking, and nutrition breaks in your schedule.
Intentional designing of a schedule to fit your active lifestyle is the real deal. Therefore, incorporate stretching, walking, and nutritional breaks into your daily schedule. Plan your calendar wisely. If you’re in a leadership position, try to host meetings outdoors and walk while talking. Use wearable technology to set reminders and goals for drinking water, walking, and much more.
Find an office buddy who can be your partner in the process and hold you accountable when you stick to your desk a lot.
4. Use mini desk pedal machines.
Miniature stuff is the rage currently: small houses, small dogs, and small machines. Similarly, miniature versions of exercise machines, like steppers, cycle pedals, etc., are available that can easily fit under your office desk and help you get the required movement during the day.
If you can possibly invest in one of these machines, they are the perfect choice for being active while focusing on your work.
5. Fidget as much as you want (without disturbing others).
Fidgeting at work has historically been looked down upon at work. It might disturb your co-workers or distract you from work. But gone are those days, pal.
Fidgeting at work is A-OK! Of course, without disturbing others. Indulge in all your fidgeting motivation and tap your feet, move around, or swing your legs gently.
Even though you are just moving around in your seat, it counts!
Having a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most significant health risks in the world. It can adversely affect your cardiovascular system, blood sugar levels, cognitive skills, and mental well-being. However, the good part is that you can incorporate various changes in your schedule to counter these negative effects.
We hope these tips on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle at home and work will help you meet your activity goals daily.
While exercising and having an active lifestyle is good, do you know that there are several side effects of exercising too much? To learn more about them, click here.
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