Health Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Health Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Couple hiking the hillsThe human body is designed for active lifestyles. This is evident when taking a closer look at its more intricate blueprints such as bone and joint structure, skeletal muscles and the cardiovascular system. Proper circulation depends on regular movement that helps blood filter through the liver and kidneys, which subsequently remove harmful buildups of toxins throughout the body. The longer someone sits, the more strain there is on the spine, muscles, organs, nerves and veins. Fat is burned much slower and the brain receives less blood and oxygen, thus adversely effecting concentration. Long term regular sitting can eventually cause heart diseases, diabetes and various cancers as well as an increase in mood disorders.

Cardiovascular Disease

Lack of physical activity is linked to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) due to the close relationship between the exercise and the heart. Sedentary living can cause hypertension, weight gain and obesity which are all risk factors for CVD. In fact, studies show that physical inactivity is as bad for the heart as cigarette smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and therefore has a direct effect on adult mortality. It is estimated that 35 percent of mortality caused by coronary heart disease is caused by sedentary lifestyles, causing over 700,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Risk of Cancer

Recent studies found that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of cancer by 66%. That’s a considerable percentage, especially when factoring in other cancer contributors that have been introduced to modern lifestyles. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that even people who work out regularly, but still spend most of the day sitting at work and at home, have a higher chance of developing colon cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. Add sugary beverages, processed junk food and poor diets to the mix and excessive sitting will lead to weight gain and obesity, which cause inflammation, acidity and other processes that are associated with cancer formation.

Heightened Anxiety

Studies also show that movement and exercise increases endorphin production in the brain, which has a calming and euphoric effect on the psyche (think runners high). Historically, humans have had to walk and run regularly for food, recreation and work. However these activities are becoming more segregated in daily routines, which reduce the occurrence of endorphin production and its soothing effects on the mind. This separation of life’s necessities and physical exercise has contributed to anxiety disorders becoming one of the most common illnesses in the United States, affecting roughly 40 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population. Combine anxiety with other negative outcomes associated with sedentary lifestyles and it can create a more severe disorder.


Similarly to some anxiety disorders, depression can be caused by lack of physical activity. If ones depression is caused by sedentary living and not a larger mental issue, then moving around and exercising regularly could cure this unfortunate condition for many people. Adversely, removing exercise from daily routines can cause people who are otherwise healthy and happy to become depressed, unmotivated, apathetic and even angry. This can also create a cycle of mental illness and eventually lead to bigger problems if it remains unaddressed. Depression has been dubbed the ‘common cold’ of mental issues, with 19 million Americans, or around 10 percent of the population suffering from it each year, many of whom could be cured with change in lifestyle choices.

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