Physical Inactivity: How does it affect humans?

Have you been nothing but a couch potato all these years? Does your lifestyle involve a lot of sitting and lying down? Then, you probably need to get a tad bit careful now. Physical inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle can give rise to a number of health issues in the long run. Most of us would agree on this fact, that our lifestyle these days, involves long sitting hours, which may be due to the constant use of a mobile phone, or playing video games.

Sedentary lifestyles lead to a sharp increase in all the causes of mortality, and also raise the risk of heart-related disorders, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, etc.

According to WHO, almost 60 to 85% of individuals in the world are leading sedentary lifestyles, which make it one of the most dangerous yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of the current times?

Health risks of an inactive lifestyle
  1. Obesity

Sedentary occupation and inactive recreation such as watching television promote obesity, regular physical activity is protective against unhealthy weight gain.

Physical inactivity may lead to obesity which in turn restricts activity. This is a vicious circle.  It is the reduced energy output which is now considered more important in the etiology of obesity than it used to be.

  1. High blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders

sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart-related (cardiovascular) disorders. For example, individuals who are less active and less physically fit have a 40%-50% greater frequency of cardiovascular disorders including coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction than the ones who live a more active life.

  1. High cholesterol

sedentary lifestyle lowers HDL i.e. good cholesterol. Less HDL implies there’s less good cholesterol to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from the arteries. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day is enough to lower the cholesterol levels in your body. (Read more about Cholesterol level in your body)

  1. Type 2 diabetes

A sedentary lifestyle appears to be an important risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. Lack of exercise may change the interaction between insulin and its receptors and subsequently lead to type 2 diabetes.

  1. Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers

Sedentary behavior increases the risk of developing certain cancers. Evidence shows that increasing the TV viewing time by 2 hours had the strongest relationship with colon cancer and endometrial cancer. Physical inactivity increases the incidence of obesity which further increases the risk of developing cancer.

  1. Osteoporosis and falls
  • Exercising regularly decreases the rate of bone loss and conserves bone tissue, lowering the risk of fractures.
  • Exercise also helps reduce the risk of falling by improving muscle strength, physical fitness, reaction time and also one gets a better sense of balance and coordination.
  1. Increased feelings of depression and anxiety 
  • Regular exercise helps to ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can boost a sense of well-being.
  • Also, it helps in taking the mind off worries so that you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. This further helps in boosting your confidence and thus you cope in a healthy way.
Preventive measures

WHO has recommended a moderate physical activity for almost 30 minutes every day, along with a nutritious diet, in order to prevent yourself from suffering the health risks.

In addition to that, few recommendations for the governments and policymakers include:

  • Implementation of transportation policies in order to make it safer for people to resort to walking and riding bicycles
  • Increasing the construction of accessible parks, playgrounds, and community centers.
  • Promotion of physical activity programs in schools and communities in order to engage more people.
  • Creation of awareness through public education, street plays, and various similar ways.


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