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Can inactivity damage your health

Can Inactivity Damage your Health?

The medical term for excessive inactivity is sedentarism. It’s definitely a factor in the development of diseases. How can you prevent health issues due to inactivity?

Today, the relationship between exercise and prevention of diseases is widely recognized. Studies have shown that at least twenty minutes of daily exercise is required in order to prevent the appearance of many health issues.

“Physical inactivity results in the so-called “disuse syndrome” (i.e., premature aging, obesity, cardiovascular vulnerability, musculoskeletal fragility, and depression). Since this reproducible syndrome applies to the young and middle-aged, as well as the elderly, age per se is not completely responsible for many of the diseases/disorders attributed to it. […] Indeed, about 15% of the 1.6 million newly diagnosed chronic diseases each year are due to a sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, physical activity also improves balance, flexibility, mental health, and overall quality of life. Indeed, “physical inactivity speeds the aging process in many people, whereas increased physical activity slows it down in others”. Thus, the earlier in life one becomes physically active, and remains so, the greater the lifetime benefits.”1

Physical Inactivity - Associated Diseases and Disorders
Table 1. Physical Inactivity – Associated Diseases and Disorders


Your daily routine should involve at least moderate physical activity and also two days of muscle-building workouts. Keep in mind that working out most days a week for only a few days or weeks will not reap you any benefits. You should make exercising a habit for long-term advantages.

Most people enjoy doing moderate to light physical activities during the day, like walking. But others sit or lie down all throughout the day, when a lack of physical activity is commonplace. This is a high-risk factor for chronic diseases. The very least you should do is go for a walk. However, make sure you don’t just stroll around for a few blocks, you want to increase your heart rate and possibly break a sweat, so walk with vigor.

“Physical activity and sedentary behaviors are not the opposite of each other. Individuals are considered to be active when they reach physical activity recommendations for their age, which does not prevent them from also devoting a significant part of their time to sedentary behaviors. In other words, individuals can be classified as both active and sedentary. Tertiary employees are the most demonstrative example of sedentariness as they spend a considerable part of their time seated in front of a computer screen. This defines them as highly sedentary, while they may or may not reach their aged-related physical activity recommendations outside of work. This confusion mainly rests on the challenge of differentiating between sedentariness and physical inactivity that must be defined as not following physical activity guidelines.”2

“There are various opinions on what constitutes a sedentary life style. However, most experts or several health organizations agreed on general guidelines that apply to most people and that a person is sedentary if he/she does not exercise or engage in some vigorous activities for at least 30mins three times a week; fails to move from place to place while engaging in leisure activities; rarely walks more than 10minutes during the day; remains seated most of the working hours; and has a job that requires little physical activities. Thus, sedentary lifestyle simply means a person is not getting enough regular aerobic exercise or any movement that can raise the heart rate significantly for an extended period of time. Sedentary lifestyle involves the toll of sedentary living which results in inactivity epidemic. Recent studies have found that an increasing number of children do not engage in physical activity on a regular basis. They prefer sitting down and be watching video films, television and playing video games. Inactivity is more prevalent among girl-child/females than among boys/males. It appears that more than 60% of women do not participate in regular amount of physical activity that can improve the levelof their physical fitness.”3

What is meant by inactivity?

This term refers to staying in one place sitting or lying, as opposed to staying in motion. When you are in your office or couch and remain seated for a long time, that´s inactivity. The frequency and duration of this can seriously affect your health.

Have dangers of inactivity been identified?

Yes. A series of risks associated with inactivity are known today. The less active you are the greater the chances of suffering from diabetes and heart conditions. Due to this, a lot of health indicators are related to inactivity.

“Sedentary Lifestyle and Muscle/Skin Changes.

A sedentary lifestyle being a type of lifestyle with little or no regular physical activity is associated with some muscular and skin changes. Muscles require regular exercise to be strong and inactivity reduces muscle capacity and strength. Sitting for a long period alters the body posture. Muscle deterioration is accelerated by inactivity and those who sit for over 5 hours daily are at risk of losing muscle strength by 1% daily. With prolonged sitting, one begins to lose the muscle fibers that are responsible for active movements. The speed of transmission of impulses from the brain to the muscles also slows down. If muscles are not used, the fibers become gradually replaced with fat and muscle wasting eventually occur. This leads to frequent fatigue on little exertion. Some skin problems are associated with sedentary lifestyle to include-change in skin color, fat deposits around the eye folds, eczema, body odor and itching among others. These are associated with poor excretory process related to inactivity.

Sedentary Lifestyle and Cardiovascular Impact The cardiovascular system is the part of the body that contains the heart, arteries and veins. It is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body thereby providing a rapid-transport system to distribute oxygen to the body cells and also remove carbondioxide from the body with other waste products. The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and blood vessels. By the process of contraction and relaxation, the heart muscle pumps blood throughout the body within 20 seconds when the body is at rest cardiovascular disease as one caused by unhealthy lifestyle including smoking, poor diet and sedentary behavior.”4

How can you increase doing physical activities while at work?

In addition to the twenty minutes a day of physical activity, it is recommended to move and stretch at least five minutes each hour.

“Although strong evidence shows that exercisers are healthier than nonexercisers, most adults do not perform enough physical activity to achieve health and well-being benefits. Workplaces may implement physical programs in hopes of keeping workers healthy and reducing healthcare costs. Since employed adults spend about half of their workday waking hours at workplaces, offering physical activity programs at work may be an efficient strategy to increase physical actvity. Convenience, group support, existing patterns of formal and informal communication among employees in a worksite, and possible corporate behavior norms are potential advantages of worksite programs over other approaches. Workplace programs may be especially important because the imbalance between physical activity and energy intake at work may contribute to the obesity epidemic.”5

How can I motivate myself to exercise more?

First, you are probably not looking to win this year’s Mister Universe competition, so you don’t need to imagine yourself doing monster workouts. We aren’t suggesting professional-level body building. We are merely pointing out that going for a walk, a light jog and yes, some weight-lifting will make your cardiac muscle stronger, your circulation more effective, your breathing much more efficient, just to name a few. In so many words, you are not only improving your health, you are also extending your life.

“In addition to the changes in human activity, globalization and technological changes have favored a progressive switch from physically demanding tasks to knowledge-based work or mental activity soliciting an enhanced cognitive demand. Screen-based leisure activities (e.g., television watching, video games, and internet use) and screen-based work activities (e.g., computer use for work purposes) have often been considered together while they may not trigger the same stress response and/or use of substrate. Furthermore, from a physiological perspective, the biological requirements and effects of physical and cognitive work are not the same. Mental work, for instance, may significantly increase glycemic instability (i.e., wide fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations) leading to an increase in the desire to eat and thus, higher energy intakes. Thus, the problems of sedentariness may not only be attributed to a lack of movement, but also to the stimulation provided by replacing activities. In a context where there is exposure to cognitive work, novel strategies to increase physical activity and improve energy balance regulation are needed.”6

“Regular physical activity is recommended to promote and maintain health and to prevent the development of cardiovascular risk factors and related chronic diseases. Opportunities for physical activity can be sought during leisure time, can be acquired during active transportation, or can arise in response to occupational duties; however, the likelihood of the workplace serving as a significant source of physical activity has declined, because contemporary work environments are sedentary. Physically demanding work has been reduced or eliminated in many sectors and replaced by labor-saving devices focused on speed, rapid communication, improved efficiency, and increased productivity.”7

At work, you can take regular walks after lunch and invite your associates, closest co-workers, or friends to join you. Take messages directly to your coworkers instead of sending texts or emails. Stay hydrated, this helps your digestive system and replenishes your body with water you lost after sweating.

When choosing between watching more TV or going for a walk, which do you think you should do?

Keep exercising.



(1) Knight, J. A. (2012). Physical inactivity: associated diseases and disorders. Annals of Clinical & Laboratory Science, 42(3), 320-337. Available online at

(2) Thivel, D., Tremblay, A., Genin, P. M., Panahi, S., Rivière, D., & Duclos, M. (2018). Physical Activity, Inactivity, and Sedentary Behaviors: Definitions and Implications in Occupational Health. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 288. Available online at

(3) Akindutire, I. O., & Olanipekun, J. A. (2017). Sedentary Life-Style as Inhibition to Good Quality of Life and Longevity. Journal of Education and Practice, 8(13), 39-43. Available online at

(4) P Inyang, M. P., & Okey-Orji, S. (2015). Sedentary lifestyle: health implications. Available online at

(5) Conn, V. S., Hafdahl, A. R., Cooper, P. S., Brown, L. M., & Lusk, S. L. (2009). Meta-analysis of workplace physical activity interventions. American journal of preventive medicine, 37(4), 330-339. Available online at

(6) Panahi, S., & Tremblay, A. (2018). Sedentariness and Health: Is Sedentary Behavior More Than Just Physical Inactivity?. Frontiers in public health, 6. Available online at

(7) Carnethon, M., Whitsel, L. P., Franklin, B. A., Kris-Etherton, P., Milani, R., Pratt, C. A., & Wagner, G. R. (2009). Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(17), 1725-1741. Available online at


Robert Velasquez
25 June, 2019

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