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What's a Sedentary Lifestyle? The Risks Plus the Benefits of Exercise

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   01/15/22

Disease  Exercise  Stress  Weight Loss  

Are you living a sedentary lifestyle? Many of us are. We don't move our bodies as much as we used to. Here's why a sedentary lifestyle can be bad for your health and simple, positive lifestyle changes to help improve your life.

young girl inactive looking extremely bored

What's a Sedentary Lifestyle? The Risks Plus the Benefits of Exercise

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   01/15/22

Disease  Exercise  Stress  Weight Loss  

Are you living a sedentary lifestyle? Many of us are. We don't move our bodies as much as we used to. Here's why a sedentary lifestyle can be bad for your health and simple, positive lifestyle changes to help improve your life.

Our lives have never been easier. We have cars to drive around in, food available at the convenient click of a button. Combined with the majority of work not involving physical activity, we have never moved so little.

More than 80% of Americans don't get enough exercise. It's no surprise because our lifestyles have evolved to be as sedentary and convenient as possible.

What's a Sedentary Lifestyle?

The dictionary definition of sedentary is "spending too much time seated." It simply means we are spending more time than ever in the history of humanity sitting on our bums.

Think about it. You drive to work seated; you likely spend the majority of your day seated at your desk. When you get home, you sit to eat or sit on the sofa to watch Netflix or play a video game. 

A survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that 25% of Americans spend more than eight hours a day sitting down. 

Convenience has made it difficult for us to get moving, and many of our leisure activities also involve sitting. For example, eating out or seeing a movie are all activities we love but have to do seated. 

What's Bad About a Sedentary Lifestyle?

Approximately 35% of mortality from heart attacks in the USA is due to physical inactivity.

Chances are, if you aren't moving enough, you lead a sedentary lifestyle. If you spend the majority of your waking hours sitting or lying down, you don't use enough energy. This is particularly problematic if you consume a high number of calories. 

When you don't move much, you don't burn energy or strengthen your heart and respiratory system. This can lead to a build-up of fat in your arteries, eventually leading to a heart attack.

There are links between a sedentary lifestyle and obesity as well as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. 

Staying sedentary can also have a significant impact on your mental health. Moving your body doesn't only come with physical benefits but mental benefits, too. If you don't move much, you can start to feel sluggish and suffer from a lack of mental clarity and even depression. 

What Are the Benefits of Exercise?

There is a never-ending list of the benefits of exercise. Here are a few reasons incorporating regular exercise into your life can help you live a healthier and happier lifestyle: 

Exercise Boosts Your Mood

One of the best reasons to exercise is the endorphins it provides. When you move your body and get your heart rate up, you secrete feel-good hormones, which signal to your brain that you're doing something great. 

The endorphins released by exercise can help reduce anxiety, and promote and enhance a better mood.

Ever felt really stressed and then gone for a walk and felt better? That's because exercise is like medicine for your mind! 

Even just a small amount of movement can help improve your mood. So if you've had a stressful meeting, instead of going straight back to sit and your desk, go for a walk. When you return, you'll feel much less stressed and will likely be able to make more sensible, thoughtful decisions. 

Exercise Prevents Disease

One of the most important reasons for increasing the amount you move your body is to prevent chronic illness. Exercise is an easy way to help your body build resilience against disease. 

When you exercise regularly, you strengthen your heart and lungs and help them stay healthy and retain optimal function. Exercise also helps your body regulate blood sugar levels, which is important for avoiding type 2 diabetes. 

Taking regular exercise is one of the simplest ways to maintain your health and feel great as you age. 

Helps You Lose Weight

More than 42% of the population is obese, putting many of us at higher risk of chronic diseases. 

If you want to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, exercise is the way to do it. 

There's a straightforward trick for maintaining your weight, and that's not to eat more calories than you're burning. If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. 

You may feel like exercising increases your appetite, but often it increases your desire for healthier foods. We want to nourish our bodies after putting them through exercise. 

Exercise Is Social

You don't need to go to the gym alone and slog along on a treadmill to get exercise. There are tons of ways to make exercise a part of your life that involves friends or family. 

Playing ball games together or going for a walk with your dog all counts as exercise. You don't always need to do high-intensity exercise to feel the benefits.

Next time you arrange to meet a friend, instead of watching a movie, why not go for a swim, a run, or a walk in the park?

Exercising together creates a social bond, and you'll feel way better about training if you do it with someone you like.

Team sports are a great way to meet new people and be active. If you enjoy being social and want to work out with others, join a local sports team. There are teams for all levels, so it doesn't matter if you're starting out.

Exercise Is Great For Your Mental Health

A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of depression. Taking regular exercise can help regulate your mood and boost your feeling of being content and happy.

Improved mental health can help improve your relationships and positively benefit your work. There's a reason the most successful business people regularly work out. 

Helps You Build Strength and Resilience

Exercise can be challenging, and there's no greater sense of achievement than smashing a tough workout. When you make exercise part of your life, you slowly get stronger. Not just physically but mentally, too.

You realize that you are capable of doing more challenging things, and you can transfer this mindset into other areas of your life.

Not only does exercise give you strong muscles, but a strong mind too.

Helps Improve Your Sleep

The energy you use to exercise helps you feel more tired at the end of the day. Your body can also get into relaxation mode quicker. As exercise is a stress buster, you are more likely to go to bed feeling calm when you take regular exercise.

You also get better quality sleep after exercise. Working out allows our body temperature to drop sufficiently to drift off into a deep sleep.

Sleep is one of the foundations of a healthy life. Never underestimate how important it is to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Stress, alcohol, and lack of exercise can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. If you have difficulty sleeping, try exercise and notice the improvement.

Exercise Boosts Your Immune System

When you exercise regularly, it decreases stress and inflammation in the body. Exercise allows everything in the body to function optimally, including your immune system.

Exercise increases blood flow, which can also increase white blood cells' circulation. A high white blood cell count is integral for immunity from disease and infection.

Exercise Helps You Build Healthy Bones

As we age, the density of our bones decreases; this is especially true for women. A gradual decrease in collagen means our bone density starts to decline. Strong bones are important if you want to avoid osteoporosis and arthritis.

Exercise can help boost your bone density. Just like muscle, bone can grow and become stronger when you exercise.

Notice Increased Energy Levels

Perhaps all that sitting makes you feel sluggish, and you have no desire to do any exercise. The first step is the hardest; getting up off the sofa to do your first workout session.

However, once you start exercising, you will notice you have more energy and want to expend this energy by doing more exercise. Once you start doing regular exercise, it's much easier to keep doing it.

How Can You Change Sedentary Habits?

Making the change from no exercise to regular exercise is a big challenge.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself and remember that a little bit of exercise is better than nothing at all.

Start small, make a realistic plan, and don't try doing too much at once; otherwise, you will be more likely to fail. If you make a plan that you'll do a 40-minute run every day, you're never going to achieve that.

Plan to do moderate exercise at least three times a week to start with. This is more manageable and achievable.

Make Yourself Accountable

Tell somebody about your healthy exercise plans; you will need to hold yourself accountable to them. Whether it's a family member or your social media followers, telling them you will start exercising is half the battle.

You can hold yourself accountable by signing up for exercise classes; if you pay for classes, you won't want to lose the money.

Alternatively, you could ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. Ask them to join you for regular walks or to go to the gym together.

Remove Any Barriers to Exercise

Making exercise as easy as possible will help you make it a habit. So book a class that you go to without thinking. Set up an exercise mat and weights next to your bed so you can roll out of bed and do it.

Try exercising first thing in the morning, so you get it done and then don't have to think about it for the rest of the day.

Meet with an exercise group in the park at the same time every week. You just turn up and don't have to think about what to do.

These are all simple ways to make exercise part of your routine without thinking too much about it. The biggest struggle is getting started, so just start!

How to Build Exercise into Your Daily Routine

There are many other ways you can increase your step count and move more as part of your day.

Walk to places nearby instead of taking the car. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; if you use public transport, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way. 

If you work at a desk, try a standing desk or at least standing up every half an hour and walking around your office.

Try walking meetings or take calls outside instead of sitting at your desk.

Organize social activities that involve more movement and less sitting. Once you start to slowly make this part of your life, it will become a habit, and you won't think about it.

Here are some other great ideas for working out at home and building movement into your daily routine.

Ideas For Exercise

The best exercise for you will be the type of exercise you enjoy most. If you don't know what you enjoy, try different types of exercise until you find something you like.

If you enjoy it, it will be easier to motivate yourself to do it! For more ideas of different exercises to try, check out this guide to working out at home.

Enjoy Exercise Benefits For Life

You now know what's a sedentary lifestyle; with this knowledge, you can assess whether you're spending too much time sitting down.

Once you start to make small changes to your lifestyle, you'll slowly change your sedentary habits and live a more active, healthy lifestyle.

Small, incremental steps towards a more active life will help you become healthier and happier in the long term.

For more ideas and inspiration on building healthy habits to last, check out our wellness education program.

headshot of Jay Todtenbier 2018

Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.

Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.

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