Biggest Health Risks of Sedentary Living

What does a normal day look like for you? Maybe you have a long commute to and from the office, where you spend your day sitting behind a desk. After work, you drive the kids to practices, and when you finally get home, you’re exhausted, so you sit and relax in front of a screen. Falling into a sedentary lifestyle is easy, but there are serious health risks associated with sedentary living and physical inactivity.

An increasing number of people work jobs and live lifestyles that are less physically active than they were in the past. We’re also more aware of the health risks associated with sedentary living.

Risks of sedentary living and physical inactivity

Muscle weakness

Your muscles get weak over time without use. This makes it more difficult to enjoy physical activities, which further promotes a sedentary lifestyle.

Heart disease

Your heart is a muscle, and it needs exercise to stay healthy, too. Physical inactivity increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It also leads to poor circulation.


Physical inactivity increases your risk of being overweight or obese; you don’t burn as many calories sitting down. It can also affect your metabolism and your body’s ability to break down fats and sugars.


Sedentary living increases your risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which your bones become weak and brittle. The older you get, the more difficult it is to maintain bone density.


People who are not physically active are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes than those who exercise on a regular basis.

Mental health problems

Sedentary living increases the risk for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Sleep problems

One of the many health benefits of physical activity is that it helps you get good quality sleep each night. Regular physical activity helps you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

General health problems

A lifetime of physical inactivity increases your risk for various health problems as you get older, including injuries from falls due to weaker bones and muscles. Sedentary living lowers your quality of life in old age.

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. That's just over 21 minutes a day. #EveryMinuteCounts Click To Tweet

Every minute counts

According to the CDC, fewer than one out of four Americans adults meet the minimum recommendations for aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening established by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

In the past, only “active minutes” — being physically active for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time — counted towards your daily total, but the recent update to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans states that every minute of physical activity counts towards your daily goal.

So how do you stop living a sedentary life? Maybe you feel like you don’t have the time exercise. You don’t have to section off 30 minutes or an hour every day for physical activity. Some research suggests that it’s better to break up activity throughout the day than to exercise for 30 minutes and be sedentary for the other 23 hours.

How to combat a sedentary lifestyle

Here are a few tips to help you meet your physical activity goals

  • Multi-task if you don’t have spare time. Yard work and household chores that have you moving around, such as sweeping, mopping, and dusting, can count as physical activity.
  • Find creative ways to be more active: play active games with your family, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the back of the parking lot, challenge friends and family to see who can be the most active.
  • Walk or bike for transportation whenever it’s an option.
  • Make time for physical activity. Try and squeeze physical activity in any chance you get. Go on walks or exercise on your lunch break. Walk instead of sit if you’re early for a meeting or appointment.
  • You may have to add a little bit of active time teach day until being active is just a healthy habit and a normal part of life.

Some people who have been physically inactive for an extended period of time might not be able to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of activity each week. Talk to your primary care provider if you have questions about exercise and the amount of physical activity that’s right for you.