A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity. A person who lives a sedentary lifestyle may colloquially be known as a couch potato. It is commonly found in both the developed and developing world.
The Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle:Why a Sedentary Lifestyle Stinks
The human body was designed to move. For thousands of years, that’s exactly what humans did. Much of it was for survival: We moved to gather food, escape predators and migrate to more forgiving land.
Even as humans advanced, our bodies were in motion. Long days of farm work, trudging into town for school or supplies, and other factors of everyday living meant there was little time for our ancestors to rest on their laurels. In the mid-20th century, however, technological advances, a rise in car culture and a shift from physically demanding work to office jobs began chipping away at our physical activity.
Today, at a time when we have more choices than ever in almost every aspect of our lives, most of us choose to be stationary.
But how does not moving regularly take a toll on our health? The World Health Organization estimates that a lack of physical activity is associated with 3.2 million deaths a year. Let us count the ways.
Sitting for too long means your muscles aren’t burning as much fat as they could be and your blood is flowing through your body at a slower pace, giving fatty acids a better chance of clogging your heart which can lead to coronary heart disease. One study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the more time men spent sitting in cars and watching television, the more likely they were to have some type of cardiovascular disease.
When you’re not moving, your body isn’t using as much blood sugar — and that’s not a good thing. A study of more than 80,000 people found each hour they spent watching TV increased their risk of developing diabetes by 3.4 percent. “Netflix and chill” doesn’t sound so fun now, does it?
That’s why exercise is one of the best natural treatments for diabetes, while a lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes for developing diabetes.
Remaining stationary for too long slows blood circulation to the legs, which can lead to swollen ankles, blood clots, swelling and pain. At the scarier end is deep vein thrombosis, when a blood clot forms in your legs. The clot can eventually break free and obstruct other parts of your body, including your lungs.
Ironically, sitting down to work can actually lead to trouble concentrating. When we’re not moving, there’s less blood being pumped throughout our bodies, including our brains. This slows down our cognitive functions and leads to brain fog.
Loss of Muscle and Bone Strength
Forget flexing: We need our bodies to maintain lean muscle tissue so we can perform our daily tasks without hurting or taxing our bodies. With a sedentary lifestyle, that all changes. Ordinary events, like grocery shopping or picking things up, become much more difficult. This becomes especially important in older adults, who are already losing muscle mass and bone strength.
How to Overcome It
How to Not Be a Couch Potato and Get Moving
Set an Alarm
Use your smartphone for good, not evil. Set an alarm to remind you to get up and move, ideally about five to eight times throughout your workday. Whether it’s simply getting up and stretching, working on your feet for 10 minutes, taking a walk around the office, or going for a quick stroll outside, it’ll do your body good.
Have Walking Meetings
Keep your brain engaged and your legs moving by scheduling walking meetings with your team. If the weather and/or your co-workers aren’t cooperating, try heading outdoors solo the next time you need to brainstorm or be creative. Being up on your feet and not slumped in a chair can spark your creativity as your body sends blood to the brain. Plus, you can walk to lose weight at the same time!
Walk and Talk Instead of Sending Emails or texts
How many emails do you send to co-workers a day? Cut back on the electronic clutter, and walk over to your colleagues’ desks to hammer out details instead. It’ll cut down on all the back-and-forth messages while keeping your body active.
Need more inspiration? Try these:
- Gossip on the phone while walking around the house instead of sitting on the couch.
- Pick up your lunch instead of ordering delivery.
- Do calisthenics instead of lounging while watching TV.
- Get up and dance the next time your favorite song is on the radio.
You might have to sit on your bum several hours a day, but there’s no reason you can’t take a stand and change your sedentary lifestyle.