What Are the Symptoms of a Sedentary Lifestyle?

Sedentary behavior is spreading worldwide and has a high impact on our bodies and problems which are associated with it are on the rise. The World Health Organization is ringing the bell - even any physical activity is better than none!

Key takeaways:
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    The prolonged sitting position among Americans seeks about 7.7 hours a day.
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    A sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity cause musculoskeletal disorders and other health issues.
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    Science proof – cell phone usage increases a sedentary lifestyle.
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    Sitting for more than 10 hours has a significant correlation with all-cause mortality.
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    Prolonged postural loading increases the lumbar spine stiffness – it raises the pain or other injuries in the back.

What is sedentary behaviour?

The time that is spent in a seated or reclined posture, when the energy expenditure is very low during waking time is called sedentary behaviour.

Mostly a sedentary lifestyle is tightly related to physical inactivity. According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) of 2020, 27.5% of adults and more than three-quarters (81%) of adolescents would not be satisfied with the level of physical activity specified in the 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health guidelines. These statistics are very urgent and the promotion of physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour is essential. A sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity are very serious problems that can cause musculoskeletal disorders and other health issues.

Statistics of a sedentary lifestyle

The prolonged sitting position among Americans seeks about 7.7 hours a day, about 55% of waking time, while Europeans spent 40% of their leisure time in a seated position. About 3.8-5.9% of all deaths are related to daily sitting. The numbers are not optimistic and reports from WHO grow worse when talking about inactivity and sedentary lifestyle.

Why did we start to sit more?

From ancient times, the human body was created to be active, however the increasing technology era led us to inactivity with different body adaptations to it. Since 1950 sedentary jobs have increased by 83% in the U.S. And this is one of the reasons why we started to sit more. Let’s look at other factors which cause sedentary behavior:

  • Environmental factors (air pollution, traffics, shortage of parks, lack of sports or leisure activities, etc.);
  • Digital technologies (television viewing and cell phone usage);
  • Increased sedentary work.

The study found a positive correlation between an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and cell phone usage. However, the study proposed that cell phone use does not have to be a sedentary behaviour. This technology can be portable and it is possible to use it in a variety of functions for example during walking.

Sedentary behavior impacts the human body

Sedentary behavior is spreading worldwide and has a high impact on our bodies and problems which are associated with it are on the rise. Below you can find the main and the biggest health diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle:

  • Premature mortality;
  • Cardiovascular diseases;
  • Diabetes mellitus;
  • Hypertension;
  • Cancer;
  • Obesity;
  • Depression and cognitive functions;
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis, lower back pain, etc.).

People who sit for more than 10 hours have a significant correlation with all-cause mortality. How can this happen? The prolonged sitting position affects the activity of muscle proteins, which transports the glucose moreover, physical inactivity reduces lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity which fights cholesterol.

Furthermore, a sedentary lifestyle has a high impact on blood pressure. It changes peripheral vascular resistance, reduces systemic blood flow, and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which decreases insulin sensitivity and vascular function. That’s how the inflammatory cascade begins. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle increases waist circumference by about 1.22 inch with a 10% increase in sitting time.

Another important impact of a sedentary lifestyle is non-specific lower back pain. Lower back pain (LBP) is a common problem among people who spend their time in a static sitting position at the office. This pain is a very important and major player in public health which can highly affect productivity, workability, and even life. The more important fact is that 37% of lower back pain globally is work-related. Study indicates that lower back pain incidence in one year follows up, ranging from 23 to 83% in office workers.

Why are the lower back or other back parts sensitive to the prolonged sitting position?

Sitting does not damage the spine, however, the prolonged seated position hurts our spine and other body structures as mentioned above. Prolonged postural loading on the lumbar spine increases the stiffness which raises the pain or other injuries.

Mainly, the office workers have three common sitting postures:

  • Upright;
  • Slumped;
  • Forward-leaning.

Slumped sitting position reduces the activity of stabilizing trunk muscles which leads to lower back pain or discomfort, while forward–leaning increases back muscle over-activity. Important to mention, that people who suffer from LBP show atrophy of the lumbar multifidus, and lumbar trunk muscles are inactive for 30% of the sitting time. The lumbar multifidus muscle is responsible for spine stabilization, which means that if spine stabilization is reduced, lower back pain occurs.

A scientific study showed that people with chronic LBP had a shorter sitting time during workdays because the pain significantly increased during sitting compared with healthy people.

Another important factor showed that people with chronic LBP had delayed trunk muscle onset in response to unexpected perturbations. What does it mean? The possible explanation is that the reflex response is delayed because our receptors which are located in tendons, muscles, and ligaments are impaired, they do not work properly. A practical example can be walking in winter on a slippery pavement, people with good response of the reflex could not overturn, while others with impaired response have a greater chance.

A sedentary lifestyle causes, not only one system malfunction, but raises complex health issues, reduced receptors response, fatigue, and inactivity of the back muscles, reduced systemic blood flow, and dominance of the sympathetic nervous system.

To reduce prolonged sitting-related problems, it is necessary to actively spend leisure time and be active during short breaks at work.


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