A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle that involves little or no physical activity—as opposed to an active lifestyle. A person living a sedentary lifestyle is often sitting or lying down while engaged activities such as socializing, watching television, playing video games, reading or using a mobile phone/computer for much of the day. A sedentary lifestyle can potentially contribute to ill health from the physical, cognitive and emotional standpoints. It can even contribute to many preventable causes of death.
Sitting time is a common measure of a sedentary lifestyle. A global review representing 47% of the global adult population found that the average person sits for 4.7 hours per day, though the real value is likely to be approximately two hours more than this self-reported value.
Another measure of a sedentary lifestyle is screen time, a term for the amount of time a person spends looking at a screen such as a television, computer monitor, or mobile device. Since one often remains immobile while looking at a screen, excessive screen time is linked to negative health consequences.
Sedentary behavior is not the same as physical inactivity: sedentary behavior is defined as "any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure less than or equal to 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs), while in a sitting, reclining or lying posture". Spending most waking hours sitting does not necessarily mean that an individual is sedentary, though sitting and lying down most frequently are sedentary behaviors.
Effects of a sedentary work life or lifestyle can be either direct or indirect. One of the most prominent direct effect of a sedentary lifestyle is an increased BMI leading to obesity. Sedentary lifestyle can also affect one's mood, body composition, mental health and cardiovascular health negatively. A lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide.
Every year, at least 300,000 premature deaths and $90 billion in direct healthcare costs can be attributed to obesity and sedentary lifestyle in the US. The risk is higher among those that sit still more than 5 hours per day. It is shown to be a risk factor on its own—independent of hard exercise and BMI. People that sit still more than 4 hours per day have a 40 percent higher risk than those that sit fewer than 4 hours per day. However, those that exercise at least 4 hours per week are as healthy as those that sit fewer than 4 hours per day.
A sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity can contribute to or be a risk factor for:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Computer vision syndrome only for computers and tablets
- High blood pressure
- Lipid disorders
- Skin problems such as hair loss
- Mortality in adults
- Spinal disc herniation (low back pain)
Since adults and children spend large amounts of time sitting in the workplace and at school, interventions of sedentary lifestyle have been focused on the following two areas.
In urban planningEdit
Some evidence suggests a negative association between exposure to an existing urban motorway and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The proportion of physically-active individuals was higher in high- versus low-walkability neighborhoods. Rising rates of overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity in China's rapidly growing cities and urban populations have been due to urban development practices and policies.
In the workplaceEdit
Occupational sedentary behaviour accounts for a significant proportion of sitting time for many adults. Some workplaces have implemented exercise classes at lunch, walking challenges among coworkers, or permissions allowing employees to stand (rather than sit at their desks during work). Workplace interventions such as alternative activity workstations, sit-stand desks, and promotion of stair use are among measures implemented to counter the harms of a sedentary workplace. A 2018 Cochrane review concluded that "at present there is very low quality evidence that sit-stand desks can reduce sitting at work at the short term. There is no evidence for other types of interventions." There is no high-quality evidence that such interventions provide long-term health benefits.
Children spend the majority of the time (60% of the time) seated while in a classroom. Children who regularly engage in physical activity are more likely to become healthy adults; children benefit both physically and mentally when they replace sedentary behavior with active behavior. Despite this knowledge, children have 8 fewer hours of free play each week than they did 20 years ago (due in part to an increase in sedentary behaviors).
Several studies have examined the effects of adding height-adjustable standing desks to classrooms, which have reduced the time spent sitting. However, associating the reduction in sitting with health effects is challenging. In one study conducted on Australian school children, known as the Transform-Us! study, interventions reduced the amount of time children spent sitting in the classroom, which was associated with lower body mass index and waist circumference. The interventions used in the study included stand-up desks and easels, the use of timers, and sport and circus equipment in the classroom. Teachers also made lessons to be more active and added breaks to lessons to promote active time. In the US, another intervention for children is promoting the use of active transportation to and from school, such as through the Safe Routes to School program. In Canada, programs such as ParticipACTION have also been promoting a more active lifestyle to children (and other segments of the population) through a variety of partnerships and initiatives.
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2019)
Over the last hundred years, there has been a large shift from manual labor jobs (e.g., farming, manufacturing, building) to office jobs which is due to many contributing factors including globalization, outsourcing of jobs and technological advances (specifically internet and computers). In 1960, there was a decline of jobs requiring moderate physical activity from 50% to 20%, and one in two Americans had a physically demanding job, while in 2011, this ratio was one in five. From 1990 to 2016, there was a decrease of about one third in manual labor jobs/employment. In 2008, the United States American National Health Interview Survey found that 36% of adults were inactive, and 59% of adult respondents never participated in vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week. According to a 2018 study, office based workers typically spend 70-85% sitting. In the US population, prevalence of sitting watching television or videos at least 2 hours per day was high in 2015-2016 (ranging from 59% to 65%); the estimated prevalence of computer use outside school or work for at least 1 hour per day increased from 2001 to 2016 (from 43% to 56% for children, from 53% to 57% among adolescents, and from 29% to 50% for adults); and estimated total sitting time increased from 2007 to 2016 (from 7.0 to 8.2 hours per day among adolescents and from 5.5 to 6.4 hours per day among adults).
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|Look up sedentary in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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