Most Americans can identify the benefits of being physically active but a far fewer people can identify the negative risks associated with being sedentary. These are extremely important, but as most of us have been cooped up in the house over the past year, we have been more sedentary than ever. Being sedentary is defined as lying or sitting and completing very minimal strenuous physical activity, in which heart rate is close to true resting measures, and the individual is relaxing their muscles. Sedentary behaviors include the typical behaviors individuals think about when being sedentary such as watching television, reading, or using a computer. Individuals often forget to include other sedentary behaviors such as their occupation if they do a lot of sitting, their commute to work, and even going out to dinner and sitting for a couple hours. As you add all of this total time up throughout the day, the average adult spends more time being sedentary then they will self report.
According to the World Health Organization, 65-75% of adults over the age of 55 do not complete an appropriate amount of physical activity throughout the day. To go along with this scary stat, over 60% of children and adolescents live a sedentary life. The number of adolescents and children being sedentary has risen in the previous 20 years and is projected to continue to increase over the next few decades. One is considered to live a “sedentary life” if they are not completing low to moderate physical activity for over 2 hours per day during their average day. This time can be added up throughout the day and the physical activity can be by design or achieved through activities of daily living. Being sedentary is associated with a vast number of health conditions, especially if an individual already has an existing health condition. To start, Coronary Artery Disease, Congestive Heart Disease, and certain types of cancers are primary health conditions that have been directly related to living a sedentary lifestyle. To go along with this, if an individual already has a health condition that limits their functional abilities, living a sedentary lifestyle have a much greater risk of developing diabetes, becoming oibese, and having some vascular concerns. As levels of physical activity increases, the risk of developing one of these primary or associated health conditions decreases, especially when paired with proper nutrition.
Unfortunately, Americans are now more sedentary than ever before. As the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, it has also been attributed to decreasing physical activity levels, resulting in even heightened sedentary behaviors. Recent research has stated that level of exercise has decreased but only slightly since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the number of individuals living a sedentary lifestyle has increased by what some researchers believe to be an additional 10% to the already high numbers of 65%75%. These stats are extremely eye opening, especially with how many individuals were sedentary before the pandemic.