Everyone basically understands that a sedentary lifestyle may seem easy, but also that it comes with potentially significant health risks. The less active you are, the more likely it is that you’ll gain weight, that your blood pressure will rise and that other health problems could surface. That’s why nearly everyone needs to get out and do something on a regular basis to get that heartrate going and that blood pumping.
However, as we learn more about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, we’re also finding out that being inactive doesn’t only lead to risks for a person physically, but that it can also negatively impact mental health. As part of our series of informational articles designed to help define how everyday activities can affect mental health, the team at SoCal Empowered is going to dive into what it means to live a sedentary lifestyle, how it can affect a person’s mental health and provide some ideas as to how this risk can be minimized.
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition for the word sedentary is something “involving little exercise or physical activity.” Basically, someone who is sedentary is someone who does not do much aside from sitting or remaining still for long periods of time.
While there is no hard-and-fast technical definition of sedentary lifestyle in the medical world, the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes a sedentary lifestyle as “a lifestyle with a lot of sitting and lying down, with very little to no exercise.”
While there have been studies attempting to put forth some type of a tangible, widely-accepted definition of sedentary lifestyle, the National Institutes of Health has published an article that is dedicated to delving into the question of what that definition is. Those who would like to read more about that topic can find it here.
Therefore, given the lack of a clear definition or threshold to watch for in terms of overall physical activity, some find it difficult to understand when they are living a sedentary lifestyle and when they are active enough to provide themselves with needed protection of their physical health.
The bottom line from a practical standpoint, however, is that people generally recognize a sedentary lifestyle when they see it or experience it. If, for instance, it’s been weeks, months or even longer since someone has gotten any type of voluntary exercise and a person is not at a healthy weight, it’s a pretty clear sign that something isn’t quite right.
A Sedentary Lifestyle and Physical Health Risks
It’s hardly a mystery that not engaging in physical activity can and often does lead to serious physical problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has published quite a bit of information regarding a sedentary lifestyle and the risks associated with it. A sampling of these increased risks that are doubled include:
- Cardiovascular diseases
A sedentary lifestyle also increases the risks of:
- Colon cancer
- High blood pressure
- Lipid disorders
Perhaps worst of all is that according to WHO’s estimates, anywhere between 60 and 85 percent of the world’s population live what could be classified as a sedentary lifestyle.
A Sedentary Lifestyle and Risks To Mental Health
While all of the above should be relatively clear and almost elementary to most, there is a growing body of data that links a sedentary lifestyle to increased risks of mental health problems. Partly because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers deepened their study of the sedentary lifestyle and how it was affecting people mentally. The overall results should be a call to action for anyone who thinks they could use more exercise.
One study from Brazil focused on the number of hours people were sitting on an average daily basis once the pandemic hit. The results revealed that those who reported sitting for at least 10 hours per day engaging in only passive activities showed an increased likelihood in reporting symptoms of depression.
In addition, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to other mental health problems. An Australian study that dates back to before the pandemic found that there was a statistical trend tying a sedentary lifestyle to increased symptoms of anxiety.
We could go on, but the bottom line is that if you’re sedentary, you’re not just risking your physical health, but also your mental health in the long run or perhaps not even in the long run. You need to do something about this if you find yourself logging too much couch or screen time on a daily basis.
How Your Lifestyle Can Minimize Mental Health Risks
Much like there is no universal definition for sedentary lifestyle, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a routine of activity that can help minimize your risks to your mental health. Everyone is different, so every plan should also be unique such that it fits your characteristics and capabilities.
The best way to get started is to schedule a checkup with your regular medical doctor. He or she can help you define your weight, body mass, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other important variables. From there, you can work together to build an activity approach that’s effective but also safe. Over time, once increased physical activity and an improved diet, if necessary, become part of your routine, you’ll find that your sedentary lifestyle could become a thing of the past.
How SoCal Empowered Can Help
Regardless, physical activity is something that everyone who’s able should engage in regularly, as it will help protect not only your physical, but mental health. Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem and you need immediate help, you should not hesitate to contact our team of professionals. We will listen to your situation and recommend a course of action that works best for you, whether that means coming to stay with us or not. Get started today on taking care of yourself both physically and mentally.