What is Sedentary Lifestyle?

Sedentary lifestyle, is a lifestyle which has very little or no physical activity. In a sedentary lifestyle, the person is always sitting or lying down and feels lethargic to perform even the common chores. These people are also referred to as “couch potatoes”.

Persons with sedentary lifestyle habits usually tend to be obese or overweight. They prefer staying on the couch for more than 5 hours a day, or even the whole day and prefer watching the television or mobile phones or play video games or work sitting in one place.

People with desk jobs and those who sit at workplaces for more than 5 hours are also in the sedentary lifestyle category.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle poses a greater risk of developing chronic diseases and causing premature deaths.

How Does an Inactive Lifestyle Lead to Health Problems?

The risk of developing a chronic disease is dependent on the basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy needed while resting in a temperate environment when the digestive system is inactive. A low metabolic rate makes a person obese, or, in other words, the body of a person with low BMR tends to store up fat rapidly. This makes the person obese with a high body mass index (BMI), leading into risk of developing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, cancers and even depression.

A person leading a sedentary lifestyle has a very low BMR, as they do not utilize the energy from the food when at rest as compared to when they move about. Energy produced by the food consumed is deposited as fat around the organs of the body making them function less and resulting in chronic diseases.

As more and more fat is deposited on the walls of the blood vessels, it leads to increase of pressure of blood flow resulting in high blood pressure or hypertension.

Along with sedentary habits, consuming unhealthy food, such as processed foods, sweets, junk or fried foods, increases the risk of developing chronic diseases or even premature death.

Negative Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

For people with sedentary lifestyles, a low calorie diet is recommended; however, this is difficult to practise in the modern world with so many ready-to-eat options that are delivered to doorsteps in a few minutes.

The repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle are not just physical, but also mental, physical, and social in nature.

Negative Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Being Idle isn’t Ideal!: The popular saying, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”, does prove to be true when a person is a couch potato. The person’s brain is not occupied, and hence resorts to watching TV or surfing the internet. This makes the person depressed, and can also give rise to negative thoughts and vice versa.
  • Cancer Risk or Risk of Intestinal Ulcers : There is a greater risk of developing ulcers and cancers, especially for those who are glued to the television sets, as they tend to binge on junk food and carbonated drinks. This kind of eating can lead to increase in the production of bile, causing damage to the stomach lining, resulting in ulceration and bleeding of the stomach and intestines. Junk food requires more bile to be digested, and when the excess bile is not utilized there is a clogging of the bile duct leading to stones and tumors which can turn out to be cancerous.
  • Risk of Diabetes: A sedentary lifestyle leads to a greater risk of developing type 2, as the sugars that are released from foods are not utilized and there is an increase of blood sugar.
  • Risk of Degenerative Disorders: There is a greater risk of degenerative disorders especially to the back and spine like cervical and lumbar spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the spine or knee joints, as there is little or absolutely no exposure to sunlight. This can lead to deficiency of Vitamin D and calcium levels in the body making the bones and spine weak and also lead to osteoporosis.
  • Lethargy and Sleepiness: Sedentary lifestyles make people lethargic and sleepy, leading to a risk of developing decreased brain functionality or memory. As there is lesser blood circulation to the brain, there is a decreased formation of neurons and synaptic connection between neurons, resulting in loss of cognition in brain centers that deal with learning and memory.
  • Juvenile Diabetes: Children with sedentary habits are at increased risk of developing juvenile diabetes, osteoporosis, ADHD or autism. They complain of body pains, are lethargic, are obese at a very young age and prone to vitamin deficiencies.
  • Underweight Babies with Risk of Future Obesity: Studies have shown that pregnant women, who become obese due to a sedentary lifestyle, run the risk of delivering underweight or premature babies. Lesser physical activity during pregnancy poses a risk for various gestational disorders like diabetes and hypertension, thus leading to delivery through Cesarean section.

Health Tips

To evade the problems arising from a sedentary lifestyle, these health tips will help maintain a disease free life:

  • WalkingBrisk walking at least five times a week helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Household work - Doing household work not only keeps the house clean, it also allows your body to metabolize the fat in your body.
  • At Work – Taking a short five minute break by standing and stretching while at work helps release the blood flow to various parts of the body boosting metabolism.
  • Physical Activity: Running, swimming, or aerobics are some of the physical activities to help maintain a good heart and proper functioning of other organs.
  • Avoid Junk Food - Consume fresh fruits and vegetables that boost the metabolism. The lesser you move, the lesser amount of calories are required.
  • Drinking Warm Water - Instead of cold drinks or sweetened beverages, opt to drink warm water, while you are sitting. This helps burn fats.
Tips to Combat a Sedentary Lifestyle & Get Moving


  1. Role of objectively measured sedentary behaviour in physical performance, frailty and mortality among older adults: A short systematic review - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28532299)
  2. Chronic exercise preserves brain function in masters athletes when compared to sedentary counterparts - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26513012)
  3. The effects of stress on physical activity and exercise - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24030837)
  4. Sedentary Lifestyle During Pregnancy may Harm the Unborn Baby - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806033)

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