Sedentarism: An Unhealthy, Sedentary Way of Life

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

sedentarismSedentarism is not yet an actual term, but it is becoming a way to explain the ever increasing sedentary lifestyle.

It may also describe the extent to which an individual is sedentary. However,  sedentarism in the past has been a term used in describing the fall of a society!

How did we get to this point of living highly sedentary lives that we now have created a term for it?

Negatives of Being Sedentary

  • It’s possibly as damaging as smoking according to new study
  • Leads to back tension and poor posture.
  • It lowers life expectancy. Did you know that consistent exercise increases the lifespan of cells in the body? Some describe exercise as the fountain of youth!
  • Greater obesity risks are associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Higher stress and risk for mood disorders like anxiety and depression are linked to it.
  • The increased risk of chronic diseases: hypertension, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, various cancers, diabetes, gallstones and kidney stones.

Are you at Risk?

activity levelEven if you think you exercise and get some activity—think again.

How much time does this take you for the entire week?

If you answer 1 to 2 hours, this is not enough. That is a very small percentage of a 168 hour week.

To not be considered sedentary, you have to have a job that keeps you on your feet, and/or get regular exercise most days of the week. The key word here is regular.

Plus, it is important to take movement breaks during sedentary time. This will help relieve spinal pressure, and increase circulation.

It’s Not Our Fault

Many of us live in a society surrounded by fast-paced lifestyles. Jobs are demanding (and highly sedentary), we sit in the car more, and there are more high tech gadgets keeping us sedentary. Overall, we feel the stresses of everyday life, and run out of time to be on our feet.

So, we have the pressures of society to be sedentary. However, we have control over our own lives. We just have to make time to be active! After all, as humans, we were meant to move.

Tips to Move By

  • Always take the stairs at the office or when out and about.
  • Check out the possibility of getting a standing desk or work station.
  • Walk during 3/4 of your lunch break.
  • If possible, walk around during business calls instead of sitting at the desk.
  • Talk to your boss about implementing a few office wide, 3 minute stretch breaks throughout the day.
  • Find active ways to unwind in the evening instead of sitting in front of the tv.

Are you able to squeeze in physical activity?


  1. Jussi

    Great post. This is how The Lancet puts it in their recent publication (actually several studies about physical activity): “Physical activity is not a medical or pathological predicament but more a cultural challenge: to create a lifestyle inclusive of activity.”

    One common opinion that I’ve observed is that it doesn’t really matter what you do or eat if you just put in that 2-3 hours of heavy exercise. A very common example is a male in his early forties who runs hard for half an hour 2-3 times a week, but besides that only transports himself in a BMW. I listened to a veteran coaching professional who highly recommended such individuals to skip some of the runs and add some walks with the family instead.

    I’ve also seen this “the only exercise that counts is hard exercise” phenomenon first hand, as I manage a highly popular web motivator for fitness/wellness, and our philosophy is that “everything counts” – we allow people to log workouts that they prefer, from snow shoveling to karate. We occasionally receive some criticism from die-hard athletes, but our focus is on the normal people: walking to work or mowing the lawn is good, basic exercise and can be great “first steps” to start a more active lifestyle. We believe in making exercise fun, casual and social.

    • Dan

      Some “lifestyle” exercises can burn quite a few calories. Taking the stairs burns a lot more calories per minute than just pacing or just standing up does. The trick is to get some time into stair climbing. Bicycling to work as I do is “lifestyle” and it can be very hard exercise as well. I go directly the 5 miles in the morning, but when I go home, I go a longer 17.5 mile route with many hills in it. Snow shoveling for sure can burn a lot of calories- although here in Georgia, we don’t have as much opportunity to do this. Lifestyle exercising can burn a lot of calories, but it is more convenient than formal exercise at a gym and it serves more of a purpose than just exercise- for instance, bicycling is great form of transportation- actually not that much slower than driving in town. Some people turn running into “lifestyle,” for instance, by running to work.

  2. Sue

    Been exercising 5-6 days a week for years and really notice the difference when I’ve been forced to miss a few days once in a while.

  3. Spectra

    Yeah, I’m not sedentary at all. I get 60-90 minutes of fairly intense cardio exercise a day, plus I have a job where I’m on my feet all day. I also take my dog for a 3 mile walk in addition to the time I spend working out. Plus, I do a lot of physical activity when I’m not at work–cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening, etc. My husband, however, is the epitome of sedentary. His day consists of getting up, getting in his car to drive to work where he sits in a cubicle all day, eating snacks the whole day long. Drives home, takes a nap on the couch, then spends the rest of the night on the computer. And he wonders why he usually feels like crap…

  4. Dan

    I love this. Exercise is more convenient when it is done as part of one’s lifestyle. I have had a stand up job for 25 years and now I bike to work. The time I would have spent driving could be subtracted from the time I bike to work. Gyms have their purpose, but they aren’t always convenient- since there is the time loss of driving to the gym. i don’t now go to a gym, but someone else might do the kind of lifestyle exercises suggested on their work days and go to the gym on their off days.