The last time the majority of the American population worked hard in terms of solid physical exercise was in the 19th century or so, when they still needed to work on farms to grow food for themselves. Public transportation was not as developed as today, and many townsmen had to walk around by feet. There were no electrical appliances that could make all household chores easier, so men and women had to do their best to maintain order at home. Some people might say those were dark and uncivilized times, when people used to die from exhaustion; but no one can accuse our forefathers of leading a sedentary way of life. And though the sedentary lifestyle seems to be a lesser evil than daily physical stress, facts show the direct opposite.
Let us exaggerate and draw a portrait of a modern individual. Say, it is a white man in his 30s—a middle-class office worker. He sits at work from 9am until 5pm, goes to a bar with his friends or colleagues in the evenings, watches TV while lying on a sofa, and goes to bed. Also, he uses his car to get to the grocery store two blocks away from his house, and ignores morning jogging and other such exercises. Let us exaggerate further, and assume hundreds of thousands of people in the United States share the same style of life. To be precise, about 58% of adult population of the US do not show high physical activity (IAFF). And finally, let us state the sedentary lifestyle described in the previous sentence is as dangerous for the human body as smoking cigarettes. All these are pieces of one big and disappointing picture: most people in the U.S., as well as worldwide, are exposed to serious and yet underestimated issues connected to a sedentary lifestyle.
According to recent studies, each year more people die from diseases caused by a lack of activities than from smoking cigarettes. Thus, according to Professor I-Min Lee from the School of Public Health, smoking cigarettes causes 5 million deaths worldwide per year, while inactivity results into about 5.3 million deaths per year (CityFix).
How can inactivity harm your health? In a number of ways: the lack of physical exercises often causes the increase of cholesterol level in blood, as well as an increase of blood pressure. This leads to ischemic heart attacks, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. This is a metabolic catastrophe as well. The sedentary lifestyle causes incredibly bad impacts on your metabolism, which starts to generate about a 30% risk of metabolic conditions, including two types of diabetes, abnormally high levels of triglycerides and lipids, fibromyalgia, chronic fatique syndrome, and other maladies (Wellformative).
According to scientific studies, the sedentary lifestyle leads not only to heart and metabolic diseases, but can significantly increase risks of contracting one of nine forms of cancer, or even more. Medics today connect the sedentary lifestyle to such forms of disease as endometrial cancer, melanoma, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other types. All kinds of spine, joint, muscle, and ligament problems possess a constant threat for office workers who do not want to diversify their daily activities with physical training. Also, a lack of movement can become one of the factors of depression.
One of the main reasons why office workers, who form the biggest group of risk, do little to change the picture is they tend to consider physical activities something that consumes time and finances, like going to a gym. In order to avoid negative health consequences, one does not need inhuman efforts. If you stand up from your chair once in an hour, and take a 10-minute walk around the office, or go outdoors, it will be enough for your body to unwind and warm up. Of course, more intense cardiovascular activities are welcomed.
Two other popular myths: one can receive injuries while doing physical activities, and there are more important tasks to do. The truth is people spend lots of time in offices doing nothing but staring at their monitors, reading RSS-channels, or browsing the Web with no purpose. Instead of doing so, why not go and walk around? As for injuries—how can walking cause traumas?
Fortunately, many people have started to realize human beings were not designed to sit in one spot for 10-12 hours per day, and diversify their free time with jogging, cycling, hiking, going to gyms, and so on. By doing so, they not only have a good time, but prevent serious health issues as well.
1. “Sedentary Lifestyle.” International Association of Fire Fighters. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. <http://www.iaff.org/ET/JobAid/EAP/Sedentary_Lifestyle.htm>.
2. Cavalcandi, Maria. “Sedentary Lifestyle Kills More Than Smoking.” TheCityFix. N.p., 9 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 May 2013. <http://thecityfix.com/blog/sedentary-lifestyle-kills-more-smoking-exercise-physical-activity-maria-fernanda-cavalcanti/>.
3. Pressman, Alan. “Consequences of a Sedentary Lifestyle.” Wellformative. N.p., 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 May 2013. <https://pressman.wellformative.com/consequences-sedentary-lifestyle>.
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