It’s hardly breaking news to say that sedentary behavior (i.e., spending too much time inactive and sitting or lying down) is bad for your health. It increases the likelihood of numerous health risks, and the more time you spend sedentary every day means the greater those risks become. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how inactive they really are, perhaps because being busy is socially associated with being “active.” They often dismiss the risks of a sedentary lifestyle because they believe it doesn’t apply to them.
Realistically speaking, following the advice of federal health officials, a person may do 30 minutes of walking or other aerobic exercise at least five days per week. Combine that with the optimal eight hours of sleep and at least a six-hour work day, and that’s only 14.5 hours out of their day that’s been accounted for. Now fold in the fact that chances are good their work day is spent sitting down. When tallying the amount of time that they’ve actually gotten up and moved around throughout the day, you may be surprised to discover how little of the day is actually spent being physically active.
Most people don’t have a choice about how physically active they are at work. That’s why what you do afterward is so important.
The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle
The risks of a sedentary lifestyle cannot be understated, and they are often far-reaching. It lowers your metabolism and damages your metabolic flexibility, which increases your risk of insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), decreased muscle mass that burns fat, and increased fatty tissue (often a precursor to gaining weight). Because sitting by necessity displaces the time you would otherwise spend being physically active, you’re receiving less of the benefits of movement and exercise while also increasing the risk of unhealthy, excess snacking (e.g., while watching TV). In fact, sedentary behavior has also been linked to 14 different causes of death by a recent study by the American Cancer Study, as reported by NBC News. What’s more, the study revealed that sedentary participants were 19% more likely to die than their physically active counterparts. The conclusion they drew is that even when following the 30-minutes-per-day guideline, sedentary activity for the rest of your day is very detrimental.
Of course, the problems don’t stop there. As reported by NPR, a 2011 study by the University of South Carolina revealed that men reporting 23 hours or more of sedentary activity were at a 64% greater risk of dying from heart disease. Most of this segment of respondents exercised regularly. The reason? The effects of a sedentary lifestyle include higher HDL cholesterol, problematic blood glucose levels, elevated blood pressure, and increased triglycerides, all of which flag cardiovascular problems. The longer people sit, the greater their risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Risks Are Exacerbated by Being Overweight or Obese
If you’re already overweight or obese, some of these sedentary lifestyle risk factors already apply to you. Yet being sedentary increases those risks yet again. What’s more, a 2017 analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that for every hour over five hours spent of sedentary behavior, waist circumference increased by two centimeters. Being overweight while being sedentary will invariably increase how overweight you are, which in turn increases your risks of cardiovascular disease exponentially.
Intersecting with Work, Leisure Time, and Exercise
If you already have to spend most of your work day sitting at a desk, then that’s already six or more hours per day of sedentary activity. That only amplifies the importance of how you spend your leisure time and how much you exercise. Small changes can still have a big impact. Finding ways to get up and move around a little every 30 minutes – or even every hour – can have a major impact, as can working in time spent standing. Remember that getting exercise doesn’t always have to necessitate heading to the gym or committing to a lengthy run every day. It helps to make a plan and lay out the little ways you can work in movement and have a truly active lifestyle.
Our modern lifestyles can make it extremely difficult for us to make changes in our habits to improve our health. Between long work hours, too much or too little sleep, and the desire to just relax a little make it easy to be sedentary. If you need help staying active, especially when sitting leads to excessive snacking or limited exercise, it’s okay to seek out extra help. At Diet Doc, we offer medical weight loss programs that are customized to your unique health needs, including how much time you spend sitting. Be sure to check out the complete details of everything our programs offer and discover whether medical weight loss is right for you.