Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle can Impact your Health 

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, watching what you eat is only one part of the equation. The level of activity you incorporate into your day also plays an extremely important role in your overall health and wellness. Balancing a healthy lifestyle with an adequate amount of activity and movement can lead to great physical and mental benefits, while not incorporating enough (or none at all) can lead to some unfortunate health risks.

What is a Sedentary Lifestyle?

Spending some time on the couch reading a book, despite being considered a sedentary activity, is not what would be considered a sedentary lifestyle. To consider it a “lifestyle” you can think of it as reoccurring sedentary behaviour that continues over a prolonged period of time. In this case, a sedentary lifestyle definition includes incorporating little to no activity or exercise on a daily basis. Someone who is sedentary exerts minuscule amounts of energy and spends more time sitting or lying down than moving around or engaging in physical activities.

Globally, one in four adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, in Canada, only 16% of adults say they receive the recommended amount of physical activity, as outlined within the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. This means that a sedentary lifestyle is much more common than you think and can impact large groups of people’s health if not effectively combatted with physical activity.

In this article, we will explore some of the sedentary lifestyle risks that can develop when one does not engage in enough activity, and how it can cause both short-term and long-term dangers to one’s physical and mental health.

Impact On Cardiovascular & Circulatory Health

Living a sedentary lifestyle can cause major implications for the heart.

A research analysis looked at 18 different studies conducted on sedentary time in adults and found that those who engaged in more sedentary time had a 147% increase in cardiovascular events and a 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events.

When we consider the factors that a lack of activity and movement can have on our heart health, it is important to acknowledge the role it has on our arteries. They are responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrient-rich blood away from the heart to various parts of the body’s tissues.

The inner-most part of an artery has a layer of endothelial cells that make direct contact with the bloodstream by producing nitric oxide, which among many key responsibilities, keeps our arteries open and arterial lining smooth. These cells make a significant impact on vascular health, and exercise has a direct effect on them. When we incorporate regular exercise into our routine, we boost the production of nitric oxide in our endothelial cells, which can lead to the overall health of our arteries and better circulation.

Regular activity and exercise also help to lower blood pressure similar to what medications can achieve, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in our cholesterol (which many call the “good” cholesterol) and can help control triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the blood.

Increased Risk of Diabetes, Cancer & Deep Vein Thrombosis

According to the CDC, not incorporating enough physical movement and activity can raise the risk level of developing type 2 diabetes, and this is a result of the body’s inability to effectively control blood sugar (aka glucose). However, when engaging in regular physical activity, it can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and help to manage blood sugar levels overall.

In the short term, incorporating activities like brisk walking can result in you using your muscles at a greater intensity, which causes more energy to be used up and provides your body with the chance to control your blood sugar at a much easier capacity. Long-term, exercise can improve your fitness level, and if you already have diabetes, it can reduce some of the complications that can result from it. In fact, a study found that diabetics who walked at least two hours a week had a lesser chance of dying from heart disease than those who lived a sedentary lifestyle.

There’s also a relationship between sufficient physical activity and the reduction in some cancers. There is strong evidence to suggest that various types of cancer such as bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, and stomach, have reduced risks in individuals who engage in high amounts of physical activity. This can be a result of reduced inflammation, improvement of immune function, preventing the risk of obesity and other various risk factors. Accordingly, research has also found that longer amounts of leisure time can raise the risk of cancer in women specifically.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a result of blood clots that form in a deep vein, usually the lower leg (although, it can happen in other parts of the body as well) and can occur for a number of reasons but can largely be seen in those who sit for long periods of time. It has been found that sitting immobile for 90 minutes can reduce the blood flow in your leg by 40%, which can increase the risk of clots forming. To help combat this risk, it’s important to move around and ensure that you are not sitting for prolonged periods – take a break and walk around!

Causes Anxiety & Depression to Spike

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and living a sedentary lifestyle can cause a major impact on how we feel mentally and emotionally. Researchers have found that those who engage in more sedentary behaviour are 25% more likely to be depressed than those who live more active lifestyles. Meanwhile, low physical activity has also been associated with higher rates of anxiety. Researchers analyzed nine studies and found that many of the studies discovered increased screen time (which involves sitting down) and an overall social withdrawal (staying at home, watching television, etc.) has been linked with increased anxiety.

Engaging in exercise and physical activity offers so many benefits to your mental health, and research has found that improvement to mood can be a result of increased blood circulation to the brain, which is exercise-induced. Enjoying physical activities, such as running or aerobic exercises, can trigger the release of dopamine, lower stress, and boost serotonin, all of which can improve mood.

Ways to Combat a Sedentary Lifestyle

The most obvious answer would be by moving! If you can, it’s important to try and get up and engage in physical activities, which for adults, should accumulate to 150 minutes per week. Moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities can include anything that you find enjoyable – it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hit the gym. Going for a run, a brisk walk, a bike ride, joining a spin class, or even cleaning the house can surprisingly offer a great workout. As outlined by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, as long as adults can sweat a bit more and breathe a bit harder, it counts as moderate intensity. Remember, it is important to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before engaging in any new physical activities.

To prepare your body at an optimal level for physical activity, it’s important to have relaxed, tension-free muscles – that’s where massage comes in. If you choose to engage in sports, massage can help improve performance, while it also helps with a range of other factors such as a reduction in swelling and inflammation, it can prevent injury, lower stress levels, and help you feel re-energized.

Here at Massage Experts, we can help you get on the path to a more physically active lifestyle with our range of massage services. Contact a location near you to get started.