A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for premature death worldwide. However, it is a preventable cause of death, and its dangers can be prevented with changes in lifestyle.
It is estimated that more than 60% of the world’s population do not perform enough physical activity. The immediate and most visible consequence of this is obesity , which in turn increases the chances of suffering from other diseases such as diabetes, apnea, or some types of cancer, among others.
Weight gain is associated with the energy balance , which means that if more calories are ingested than those that are burned normally, an increase in weight will occur.
However, overweight is not the only danger of sedentary lifestyle, because even if a person has a body mass index (BMI) considered normal, several studies show that lack of physical activity is a risk factor in itself for the development of numerous chronic noncommunicable diseases.
It can alter metabolism favouring the appearance of metabolic syndrome , and causes or worsens other problems such as osteoporosis , cardiovascular disorders , varicose veins , etc.
Experts explain that a spectacular increase in the incidence of overweight and obesity worldwide is not so much due to the fact that we now eat more than before – although it is true that the abandonment of healthy and traditional food such as Mediterranean diet does have something to do with the phenomenon-, but is directly linked to the lack of physical activity.
Tips to prevent the dangers of sedentary lifestyle
To prevent a sedentary lifestyle it is necessary to practice physical exercise since childhood, and to stay physically active throughout life, even in old age, since physical activity includes all bodily movements produced by skeletal muscles that require an expenditure of energy and, therefore, staying active does not necessarily imply practicing a sport, but there are many daily tasks that consume energy and that we can carry out without visiting a gym or doing a training program.
At each stage of life, physical activity needs are different, and the World Health Organization has established age-adjusted recommendations:
In the case of children and adolescents (from 5 to 17 years old), they must spend a minimum of one hour a day doing exercise (games, physical education, training programs, sports practice …).
Adults 18 to 64 years can perform recreational or leisure activities that involve movement, housework or gardening, traveling on foot or by bike, or take long walks, as well as sport or carry out an exercise program.
The minimum time recommended by the WHO is 150 minutes per week if the intensity is moderate, or 75 minutes per week in the case of high intensity aerobic exercise, always in sessions lasting at least ten minutes.
In this age group the WHO also advises to carry out activities to strengthen the large muscle groups at least twice a week.
In the older than 65 years, the recommendations for physical activity are similar to those of the previous group -always according to their abilities and physical condition.
Even if you can not spend one or more hours a day doing sports, some gestures can improve your physical condition and your health and thus avoid a sedentary lifestyle :
- Walk whenever possible, even if only 10 minutes. For example, you can get off one or two stops from public transport before arriving at your destination and finish the tour by walking.
- If your work requires you to spend a lot of time sitting, get up every two hours, walk and stretch to loosen up your muscles. A short walk after lunch is also highly recommended.
- Take the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and if you do it several times a day, better.
- On weekends, or in your free time, alternate sedentary activities (watching TV, reading, playing with the video game console …) with others that involve movement (walking, playing paddle, swimming , do DIY, ride a bike , clean the house, take care of the garden…).