Meaning: A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle involving little or no physical activity. A person living a sedentary lifestyle is often sitting or lying down while engaged in an activity like reading, socializing, watching television, playing video games, or using a mobile phone/computer for much of the day. A sedentary lifestyle can potentially contribute to ill health and many preventable causes of death.

The modern lifestyle is a mostly sedentary one with most people spending more time on their backside than on their feet. All this sitting with little or no exercise is doing a lot of harm to the body and can affect the health negatively.

Basically, sitting is a normal human body posture, and when people work, socialise, study or travel, they often do so in a seated position. It’s second nature.

However, it’s the amount of sitting that’s the problem as it can be harmful if you do too much of it. And these days, our lifestyles encourage most people to sit more.

Over half of the average person’s day is spent sitting, doing things like driving, working at a desk or watching television.

In fact, the typical office worker may spend up to a whopping 15 hours per day sitting. Agricultural workers, on the other hand, only sit about three hours a day.

Your everyday non-exercise activities, like standing, walking and even fidgeting, still burn calories.

This energy expenditure is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), the lack of which is an important risk factor for weight gain.

Sedentary behaviour, like sitting or lying down, involves very little energy expenditure. It severely limits the calories you burn through NEAT.

To put this in perspective, studies report that agricultural workers can burn up to 1,000 more calories per day than people working desk jobs.

Sitting too much causes weight gain. When it comes to weight management, the fewer calories you burn, the more likely you are to gain weight.

This is why sedentary behaviour is so closely linked to obesity. In fact, research shows that obese individuals sit for an average of two hours longer each day than lean people do.

Sedentary behaviour causes diseases

Sedentary behaviour is consistently linked to more than 30 chronic diseases and conditions. This includes a 112% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes, and a 147% increase in heart disease risk.

Insulin resistance -a key driver of type 2 diabetes -has been a particular area of interest for those researching sedentary behaviour.

Meaning: Insulin resistance (IR) is a pathological condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose to enter cells which also reduces blood glucose (blood sugar). Insulin is released by the pancreas in response to carbohydrates consumed in the diet. In states of insulin resistance, the same amount of insulin does not have the same effect on glucose transport and blood sugar levels.

Studies have shown that walking fewer than 1,500 steps per day, or sitting for long periods without reducing calorie intake, can cause a major increase in insulin resistance.

Researchers believe that being sedentary has a direct effect on insulin resistance, and this can happen in as little as one day. While regular exercise is always recommended, it can’t completely offset all the health risks of sitting too much.

One study tested this theory by measuring metabolic markers in 18 people following different exercise protocols.

When the entire day is spent sitting, one hour of intense exercise cannot make up for the negative effects of inactivity.

Additionally, a recent review of 47 studies found that prolonged sitting was strongly linked to negative health outcomes, regardless of exercise levels. As expected, the negative effects were even greater for people who rarely exercised.


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