7 Ways You Wreck Your Body When You Don’t Get Off Your Butt

​7 ways you wreck your body when you don’t get off your butt

​Plus, we drop the easy tips and tricks that you can do to get back on track and wave away that frustrating funk

ONE OF THE WORST THINGS you can do to your body is do nothing at all. Being sedentary can do a number on your body – and it can be more dangerous than you might think.

Adding to previous research of its kind, authors of a study found that more than 300,000 people saw that being sedentary was a major health hazard. Yet they also estimated that exercising a little bit – the equivalent of a 20-minute brisk walk daily – could reduce the risk of premature death in inactive people by as much as 16 to 30 per cent.

Globally, 1 in 4 adults aren’t moving enough, according to the World Health Organisation. And even if you think you’re an active person, you might be spending just enough time in front of your TV when you’re not at the gym to be putting your health at risk.

What’s more, the effects of staying seated go far beyond what you may think. Sure, your sedentary behaviour can hurt your heart and raise your risk for inflammation-causing extra unwanted kilos. It might also be responsible for some more surprising effects too, including effects on your sex life, your mood, and your blood sugar.

Let these 7 sinister side effects of living a sedentary life inspire you to move a little bit every day. Read on to learn more—and to discover the easiest thing you can do right now to reverse the damage.

Sedentary behaviour effect #1: your mood takes a dive

Feeling down? Blame your chair: Research continues to show that long periods spent sitting can have a significant impact on your mental health, with a 2022 study showing that sitting time was strongly associated with adverse mental health effects during the COVID-19 lockdown.

What’s more, other types of sedentary behaviour—like watching TV or playing electronic games – can increase your risk for anxiety, according to a meta-analysis of nine studies published in BMC Public Health. The reviewers suggest that engaging in “screen-based entertainment,” as they call it, may get your central nervous system all riled up and invite anxiety. Screens may also disrupt sleep, bringing on anxiety that way.

If you’re spending your time on screens, you’re probably not fitting in enough physical activity, the researchers say.

And that’s important, since exercise has mood-boosting benefits. Some research indicates that cardio can boost your mood just as effectively as prescribed antidepressants.

Sedentary behaviour effect #2: Your cancer risk skyrockets

A 2021 review paper found that sedentary behaviour significantly increases your risk for several types of cancer. It suggested that an estimated 30 to 40 percent of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes including increased physical activity.

Being sedentary has been linked to having excess weight. And large studies have consistently shown that higher levels of body fat can spike your cancer risk. Chronic local inflammation from this fat can lead to cancer-causing DNA damage over time, according to the National Cancer Institute. Plus, a surplus of fat cells eventually produce hormones that lead to cell proliferation, a process that causes your cells to grow and divide rapidly.

Sedentary behaviour effect #3: You start to forget things

Your brain health suffers when you lounge for too long: Older adults who are sedentary may be just as likely to develop dementia as people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, recent research shows.

Exactly how much activity you might need to get these effects still need to be teased out and may be different for men and women. For now, aim for at least the recommended 150 minutes a week of activity that gets your heart rate up.

Sedentary behaviour effect #4: Your blood sugar spikes

Even if you’re at a healthy weight, your blood sugar levels can rise if you’re parked in a chair for too long, according to a 2020 study. The study results showed that decreasing sitting time and making a point to take breaks to move could be beneficial in improving blood-sugar regulation in type 2 diabetes.

If you’re in the pre diabetes range, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and making time for 150 minutes of exercise a week can delay the onset of full-fledged diabetes, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sedentary behaviour effect #5: your sex life slows down

Your inactive behaviour can lead to extra kilos, and those might be setting yourself up for penis problems down the road. Men with a bigger belly – or a waist of 42 inches or more – are more than twice as likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those with waist sizes below 32 inches, one Harvard study found.

Your swimmers can take a hit, too. Men who binged on TV for more than 5 hours a day had 29 per cent lower sperm concentration than men who didn’t watch any TV, recent Danish research found.

Take note: The work you put in at the gym follows you to the bedroom. A 2018 study showed that having a healthy body-fat percentage is tied to having positive experiences with regard to sexual health and function

Sedentary behaviour effect #6: you’ll toss and turn

Ever feel like you sleep more soundly after logging a great workout? That’s because exercising at least 150 minutes a week can improve the quality of your shuteye, according to a 2018 study.

Those who exercise vigorously are nearly twice as likely to experience a good night’s sleep every night compared to people who avoid the gym, a National Sleep Foundation poll found.

In fact, more than two-thirds of vigorous exercisers reported almost never experiencing symptoms associated with insomnia. On the flip side, 50 percent of people who don’t exercise reported waking up in the middle of the night.

Sedentary behaviour effect #7: your backache gets worse

The effects of slouching in front of your computer can last beyond your workday. Sitting for as little as 4 hours straight can increase pressure on the disks in your lower back, another study found. This compression can lead to disk degeneration, a common culprit behind back pain.

So get up and move, the researchers suggest. When the participants in the study changed their position every 15 minutes, they didn’t see any adverse effects in their disks.

While you might assume rest is the answer, research shows that movement is great pain medicine. Just 25 minutes of aerobic exercise—like running or swimming—can reduce your back pain perception by 28 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development.

The best ways to get back on track

You don’t need to block out serious amounts of time to get your butt out of the chair. If you don’t have the type of schedule that allows you to fit in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise throughout the week—as federal guidelines recommend—working out on the weekends is still better than parking it on the couch.

When English researchers analysed lifestyle data from 64,000 adults, they found that people who crammed their workouts into just one or two days per week were still 40 percent less likely to die from heart disease, 18 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 30 percent less likely to die of any cause over 18 years than people who didn’t exercise at all.

Still, if you can manage to spread your workouts throughout the week—even if you’re just taking your dog for a brisk walk—the benefits will be even better. But fitting in a day or two of exercise is definitely better than doing nothing at all.

This story originally appeared on Men’s Health U.S


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