What is sedentary lifestyle? Is it harmful or bad for our body?
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
– Dr. James Levine, director of Mayo Clinic
1. 25% of American adults spend more than eight hours a day remaining sedentary
Based on a recent research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans sit for more than 8 hours a day. Listed below are an overview of the results:
- 25% of Americans spend more than 8 hours a day sitting.
- 44% of them report not doing any form of exercise every week.
- 11% of them spend 8 hours or more a day sitting whilst doing little leisure-time physical activity.
- Only 4% spend less than 4 hours a day sitting while maintaining an active lifestyle.
2. A sedentary lifestyle brings up mortality rates by 71%
A study conducted in 2010 among 184, 190 participants show that adults who spend 6 hours or more siting per day with little to no form of physical activity raises their mortality rates by 71%.
An even more shocking revelation is provided by another study, revealing that 4-7 hours of vigorous physical activity per week, does little to change the fact that sitting for 5-6 hours a day increases mortality rate by 50%.
The lesson learnt is that although a moderate amount of time is spent on physical activity, it does not compensate enough for a sedentary lifestyle.
3. The United States is ranked 143 out of 168 Countries in Physical Fitness
In terms of exercise and fitness, a UN report shows that the United States rank 143 out of 168 of the surveyed countries, making it one of the countries that are the most sedentary.
A study shows that 40% of Americans to not meet the minimum criteria according to the guidelines for physical activity, which is 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week)
The 5 least physically active countries are:
- Saudi Arabia
- Costa Rica
With Kuwait being one of the most sedentary countries, more than 67% of its population do not meet the minimum requirement level of physical activity according to the guidelines.
These are some of the most physically active countries:
In Uganda, only 5.5% of its population do not meet the minimum level of physical activity suggested in the guidelines.
3. Men are more likely to be Physically Active compared to Women.
A report by the UN states that the women in most countries have a higher tendency not to reach the minimum physical activity required as compared to men.
The likely occurence of physical inactivity is 10% higher in women compared to men in the 159 among the168 surveyed countries. What is even more shocking is that the percentage in the remaining 9 countries are 20% higher in women in terms of lack of sufficient physical activity.
So based on these numbers, it is important that women begin to place physical fitness higher on their priority list to lead a healthier life.
4. 6% of Deaths Worldwide are Directly Related to Physical Inactivity
To give you an idea of how your life ahead will be looking if you spend most of your day sitting and leading a sedentary lifestyle, you can expect a significant increase in risk of developing chronic conditions, cancer, and early death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity places fourth in the list of leading risk factors for death rates. It accounts for:
- 6% of deaths globally
- 22% of heart disease
- 22% of colon cancer
- 12% diabetes and hypertension
5. People who sit for 30 minutes or less at any given time lowers their risk of death by 55% than those who sit longer.
Keith Diaz, an associate research scientist at Columbia University Department of Medicine who conducted the research about Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in the U.S., said that the duration and frequency of sitting vastly contributes to the potentiality of premature death.
In their study consisting of nearly 8000 adults, they found out that those who sat for 30 minutes at a time had 55% lower chances of premature death as compared to those who sit for a longer period of time.
On a more serious note, the same study showed that those who for 90 minutes or more at a time have almost double the risk of premature death.
The bad news is that the study also revealed that time spent sitting, nonetheless increases your mortality rate even though you lead a physically active lifestyle. The difference however between physical active and inactive people, is that the active group of people will definitely have lower chances of increasing their total mortality as compared to those who are inactive.
6. People with sedentary lifestyle increases their cardiovascular diseases risk by 147%
On a more important note, let’s go through how a sedentary behaviour can lead to premature death.
One of the medical conditions most linked to physical inactivity is heart disease. According to several studies’ results and analysis, those who lead a sedentary lifestyle increase their rates of getting cardiovascular disease by a shocking 147%.
A research called Sedentary Behaviour and Subclinical Cardiac Injury says that spending the whole day sitting can cause troponin buildup in the body. Now speaking on a scientific level, troponin is a protein released by the cardiac muscles when they are damaged. Does not sound too good already. The study shows that people who spend 10 hours or more a day sitting, will have more troponin buildup. Those levels are not enough to trigger a cardiac arrest, but still high enough for researchers to mark it as a ‘subclinical cardiac injury’.
A simple other cause of increasing risks of cardiovascular disease is obesity. It it simple to understand that the more inactive a person is, the harder it is to control their weight.
7. A sedentary lifestyle increases cancer risk as high as 66%.
According to 43 observational studies involving more than 4 million people and 68,936 cancer cases, it is revealed that sedentary lifestyle related directly to developing high risk of various types of cancers. This includes:
- Increases risk of colon cancer by 24%
- Increases risk of endometrial cancer by 66%
- Increases risk of lung cancer by 21%
An additional note; each subsequent 2-hours spent sitting increases the risk of colon cancer by 8%, endometrial cancer by 10% and finally lung cancer by 6%.
Activities of the sedentary lifestyle was looked into and they found that the main culprit is watching TV, owing to an increased risk of 54% for colon cancer and 66% for endometrial cancer.
8. Sitting for long durations increases the risk of diabetes by 112%
The next big consequence of leading a sedentary lifestyle is diabetes. Having a sedentary behaviour alters an individual’s glucose levels and can increase insulin resistance.
A study shows that continuous and frequent sessions of sitting increases your risk by 112% of getting diabetes. Compared to cardiovascular diseases and cancer, diabetes is the main leading consequence of sitting for prolonged hours.
9. People who sit for more than 7 hours per day or more are are higher risk of suffering from depression, dementia and alzheimers
A study was conducted among 8.950 middle-aged women. The results showed that the women who sit for nearly 7 hours a day or more, were more likely to increase their risk by 47% of suffering from depression than those who sit for less than 4 hours. Due to the lack of physical activity, it is harder for ‘happy’ hormones in the body such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin to be circulated.
Another study also shows that physical inactivity raises chances of getting dementia and alzheimers. A scary fact unraveled by this study is that a sedentary life can increase the risk of alzheimers by up to 12 times.
10. Sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since the 1950s
As humans progress and the age becomes more modern, jobs that used to require humans’ hard labor is now replaced by robots or automated systems. Due to this growth in technology, sedentary lifestyles become more common and therefore lesser physical activity.
The American Heart Association recorded that of 20% of the current American jobs are properly physically active. Eversince the 1950s, sedentary jobs have leaped to 83% more.
11. Physical movement just 2 minutes every hour can bring down premature death risks by 33%.
The first baby step away from a sendetary lifestyle is simply getting up and moving about for at least 2 minutes every hour between work.
According to a study by the University Of Utah School Of Medicine, just two minutes of physical activity for every hour of sitting is enough to lower the risk of premature death by 33%.
Those two minutes can be wisely spent stretching, walking, going for a toilet break or drinking some water. To ensure you discipline yourself to this schedule, you can use an extension like Healthy Browsing if you use Google Chrome. If not, it would not take much time out to set alarms in hourly interals on your phone.
12. Recommended Physical Activity Guidelines
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion(ODPHP) released the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition in 2018. It describes below, the recommended physical activity guidelines for all ages and situations.
- Preschool children under 5 years old should be physically active throughout the day.
- Children and adolescents from 6 to 17 years old require at least 1 hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. This should include aerobic and muscle and bone-strengthening activities.
- Adults should do vigorous-intensity physical activities at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes a week.
- Older adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week with consideration for existing conditions.
- Pregnant and post-partum women should consult with their obstetrician and if possible, do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread throughout the week.
Take note that these are all only guidelines. You can tweak it to match your own body and add on any exercise to your health benefits.
Even when you’re sitting, there are things you can do to bring micro movements to your body, lessening its negative impact. Some of them are:
The good news that even while seated at your desk, there are a couple of things that you can do to fight the sedentary behaviour. First, you can incorporate micro movements to your body such as:
- Do desk stretches and exercises to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic neck and back pain. Targetting muscles in your back proves beneficial to aid back pain.
- Take breaks between working to stand or walk around. Use this ratio as a guideline as to when you should take a break and walk around or remain seated; 1:1 to 1:3. The first digit being the amount of time standing or walking around and the second being seated and working.
- Alternate between a regular chair and more active sitting solutions such as a rocking kneeling chair or balance ball chair throughout the day. Or another option is to makeover your chair to serve as a more ergonomically proper desk chair.