Morgan, a budding, bright executive secretary, works in an office and sits all day at a desk. She knows she is developing an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. She wants to change this but really doesn’t know how to. She complains of feeling lethargic and drained and finds it very hard to focus on specific tasks.
Sitting Our Way to Death
Sedentary lifestyle is a contributor to premature death. Sedentary Death Syndrome or “SeDs” is the term developed by more than 200 of the nation’s leading physiologists to diagnose the growing epidemic of physical inactivity and its relationship to chronic, preventable diseases. All inactive Americans are currently at risk for SeDs, which can lead to premature disability or death. Approximately 2.5 million Americans will die prematurely in the next ten years due to a sedentary lifestyle, a number greater than all alcohol, gun, motor vehicle, and illicit drug-use deaths combined.
There needs to be a major plan to combat sedentary lifestyle which is slowly killing the population; and, in order to make this work, we need a mandatory plan called “MOVE!” People need to think seriously about their health every day. The need to know that, when they sit at a desk, at the computer, or on the couch with the remote in their hand, they are decreasing their life expectancy every hour. “Sitting for an extended period of time causes your body to shut down at the metabolic level” (Hamilton, 2011, 6). Therefore, a lack of physical activity doubles the risks for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and muscle atrophy.
How can a sedentary lifestyle contribute to premature death? A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle with no or irregular activity. Sedentary lifestyle contributes to premature death because your body has been designed to move. If you work 60 hours a week at a desk job and you manage to work out for five 45-minute bouts of exercise, most experts would say you are active; but Hamilton would identify you as an “exercising couch potato” (Hamilton, 2011, 1). The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability. It accounts for 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States.
Children are affected as well. Increased time spent with television, computers, video games, cell phones, and homework means less time moving around and playing outside. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, since 1976, the number of overweight children in the United States has tripled. Therefore, 1 in 6 children between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight and at risk for health problems.
The Entire World is Sitting Down
Sedentary lifestyle affects every area of the world. This is a global problem and increasing physical activity is vital in every fashion according to WHO. How do you recommend increasing physical activity for office workers like Morgan? Or those who sit for prolonged periods every day? People need to become aware of a sedentary lifestyle that has deleterious outcomes. The disadvantage of innovative technology is that it is making the entire world physically inactive. For example, postage can be obtained through your computer; shopping online has become very popular. Most of what you are doing can be done by the touch of a button. Many activities now require less movement and less walking.
It may sound unfair to say, “regardless of how often or how hard you work out, there’s still a good chance that you’re sitting your life away” (Hamilton, 2011, 6), but it’s true.
According to Katsmarzyk, “A person may hit the gym every day, but if he’s sitting a good deal of the rest of the time, he’s probably not leading an overall active life” (Katsmarzyk, et al. 2010, 8).
To argue that exercise counteracts a sedentary lifestyle is paradoxical if you don’t move more and sit less (Levine, 2013, 2). Levine’s take on increasing physical activity is as simple as getting up and doing at least five minutes of movement activity every hour to increase cardiovascular output, improve joint health, decrease sedentary lifestyle and fight against obesity . . . on a regular basis (Levine, 2013, 2). According to a CBS report, two hours of sitting cancel out twenty minutes of exercise.
How to Get Up and Move!
A fitness or activity tracker is a great way to measure your activity level. How many steps do you take in a day? The average American walks 3,000-4,000 steps a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. That equates to about 1.5-2 miles a day. You should aim for 10,000 steps a day, which is about 3 miles, even if you are active. “Aim” is the key word here. You may not achieve 10,000 steps every day, but you are now aware of your movements. Individuals who exercise everyday can still become coach potatoes. To find out your baseline, that is, the number of steps you walk already, use a fitness tracker. You can find out the best trackers on Reviews.com. So, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far away, go hiking, mow the lawn with a manual lawn mower—better still use a push reel mower. Now that will not only get you moving, but the push reel mower will also give you a great workout.
Walking is one of the most natural and best ways to stay active. Everything else is simply icing on the cake. Now, go and take a walk…
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Vital Statistic Reports, vol 58. Retrieved from
Distribution and determinants of sedentary life in Europe Union. Oxford Journal Medicine: International Journal of Epidemiology, vol32, (1) p.138-146.
Hamilton, M. et al. (2012). Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419586/
Physical Inactivity Can Boost student’s performance: Retrieved from
World Health Organization (W.H.O) Factsheets on obesity. Retrieved from