Moving Too Little?

Updated on April 1, 2020
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The physical, mental, and cognitive effects of sedentary lifestyle you need to know about

By Chen Raizman

It’s no secret that sitting too much is bad for your overall health. But many of us don’t realize just how bad it can be. In fact, a lack of exercise causes twice as many deaths as obesity, yet globally, one in four adults aren’t moving enough.

While some physical effects are obvious, a sedentary lifestyle can negatively manifest itself in a myriad of ways. More than just impacting our bodily wellbeing, moving too little can also affect our mental health and daily cognitive functions. 

Feel like you need some motivation to get up and get moving? These effects of inactivity should help you jumpstart your new active lifestyle.

Physical impact

The most tangible effects of a lack of daily movement are experienced physically. For example, little to no exercise results in decreased cardiovascular health and research has shown that if you sit for an average of 10 hours or more per day, the risk of cardiovascular disease goes up.

Even if you’re getting in the recommended 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day, if you’re sitting the rest of the time, you’re doing little to compensate for its negative effect. The posture many people take while sitting at a desk – which many of us do for eight or more hours a day – can cause lower back, neck and joint pain. 

Not to mention, sitting too much generally results in decreased muscle load and lower bone density due to a lack of external load. After five weeks of bed rest, the healthy male participants in this study experienced glute, thigh, and calf muscle atrophy and bone density loss.

In addition, a sedentary lifestyle can mean poorer sleep quality. People who exercise vigorously are twice as likely to get a good night’s sleep than those that don’t, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll.

Mental Health

Many people don’t realize the positive impact being active can have on their mental health. Research has shown that an inactive lifestyle is closely linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression. 

One study found that men who sat for more than six hours a day were 90% more likely to feel moderate psychological distress, like feeling restless, nervous, or even tired, than those who sat for less than three hours a day.

Physical exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden, and can also give short-term relief due to the release of endorphins and the meaningful interactions of team sports.

Brain function

A sedentary lifestyle can also have worrying effects on cognitive abilities, especially as we get older. Older adults that don’t exercise are in fact just as likely to develop dementia as those that are genetically predisposed to the condition, according to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s also been found that regular exercise improves the ability to focus and memory in general. The parts of the brain that take care of this, the prefrontal cortex and the temporal cortex, have greater volume in active individuals compared to those that don’t exercise.

How to combat “Sitting Disease”

As easy as it is to identify why we should be moving more, putting it into practice – especially when so many people simply don’t have enough hours in the day to spend exercising – is significantly harder. Shockingly, 86% of American employees have jobs that require them to sit for long periods.

So, what can you do in these circumstances to help your situation? Start off by spending your free time doing something active – it could be swimming, walking, running, a team sport, or strength training. What matters most is that it’s something you enjoy and are likely to stick to.

There are also small changes you can make throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further from your office building, and invest in a fitness tracker to monitor your daily movement and hit targets.

There are also products on the market that can help you stay active even while working at a computer, such as office chairs that force you to engage your muscles while sitting and under-desk pedals that keep your legs active through the day. 

Whether you’re already active or not, finding ways to incorporate more movement into your day can give you an extra boost. Be they physical or mental, the reasons to get up and move around have countless benefits. 

Chen Raizman is CEO and Co-Founder at The ActiveSeat Co. Chen has vast experience in the world of international sales and production. For over 10 years Chen worked, operated and consulted in and to numerous international companies and entrepreneurs, all in the consumer products and retail categories. He founded The Activeseat Co. with an aim to bring more fun to the work place and less pain.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.