In recent years, partly due to advances in new technology, the majority of our daily practices have become much more sedentary in nature.
Often when we break down our regular routine, it is easy to see the extent of our sedentary behaviour. Most likely once we get up in the morning we: sit down to eat breakfast, sit down while we travel to work, sit down at work, sit down on the journey back home, sit down to relax and watch TV. That’s a lot more sitting than you thought, right?
These sedentary habits are very dangerous for our health. Humans are built to stand, our bodily systems work better that way. Research suggests that sitting for long periods of time slows the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as its ability to break down body fat.
To reduce the risk of ill health from inactivity, research advises us to lessen our sedentary behaviour and exercise regularly—at least 150 minutes a week.
What is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
Sedentary behaviour is any activity involving sitting, reclining or lying down for long periods—not including sleeping—that uses very little energy or motion. A 2017 paper by the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network considered activities that expend 1.5 METs (metabolic equivalents) of energy or less to be sedentary.
This type of lifestyle has increased dramatically over the past few decades due to an increase in office jobs that involve sitting, as well as longer commute times and advances in technology that result in more screen time.
Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Engaging in too much sedentary behaviour means you are at increased risk for a number of preventable illnesses and causes of death.
The following health issues have links to sedentary lifestyles:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Colon cancer
- High blood pressure
- Spinal disc herniation
Even if you partake in exercise as part of your routine, engaging in too much sedentary behaviour outside of this still puts you at risk.
These adverse health effects occur because, when you have an inactive lifestyle:
- You burn fewer calories, making you more likely to gain weight
- You may lose muscle strength and endurance
- Your bones may get weaker and lose some mineral content
- Your metabolism may be affected
- Your immune system may not work as well
- You may have poorer blood circulation
- Your body may have more inflammation
- You may develop a hormonal imbalance
How to Reduce Sedentary Behaviour
If you are unused to exercise, it is important to start slow and build up gradually. Doing too much too fast can not only be overwhelming but may result in injury. It’s important to learn about and respect your body’s limitations. It’s always better to get some physical activity into your day rather than none.
If you’re aware of a physical health condition that may impact your ability to exercise, it’s best to see your doctor before you start any activity. They will be able to help build a unique exercise plan tailored to your needs. Even if you’re simply unsure where to start, your GP can help give you some idea of what is appropriate for you.
Here are some simple ideas to help break up long periods of sitting with a few minutes of activity:
- Stand up on the train or bus
- Take the stairs and walk up escalators where possible
- Set reminders to get up every 30 minutes
- Place your laptop on a box or similar to work while standing
- Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing or calling them
- Swap out some TV time for a more active hobby or task
- Stand up or walk around while on the phone
If you’ve already started including these steps into your routine, here are some other ideas for more vigorous exercise to try:
- Practice yoga
- Take up swimming at a local pool
- Workout at home with an exercise video
- Buy some simple exercise equipment for your home such as a yoga ball, exercise mat, stretch bands and hand weights
- Consult with your doctor about whether physiotherapy in Perth is an option
Even if you go to the gym, reducing your sedentary behaviour for the rest of your daily routine can further increase your health benefits. When you compare the amount of time you spend exercising and the amount of time you spend sitting on a normal day, chances are you spend a lot more time sitting. Research suggests that any kind of regular interruption to sitting may help reduce your risk of developing illnesses including heart disease and diabetes. Physiotherapy treatments have been effective in treating different common conditions. If you are facing any specific condition like back pain, physio for back pain can help.
Reducing your sedentary behaviour does not have to be overwhelming. Taking these simple steps and developing some of your own ways to keep active can reduce your risk of ill effects from prolonged sitting. If you are looking for more tailored support and a supervised exercise plan, consult with your doctor.