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Health Risks of Inactive Lifestyle

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An inactive lifestyle is increasing worldwide because of increased sedentary behaviors like office work, binge-watching, and the social media craze among youngsters.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Arpit Varshney

Published At October 3, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 2, 2023


An inactive lifestyle has an impact on the overall health of the population. Insufficient physical activity has adverse effects on health and contributes to the prevalence of various diseases. An inactive lifestyle affects the human body through various mechanisms. Some examples of sedentary lifestyles include watching television, playing video games, sitting idle using a computer or laptop, using a mobile phone, binge eating, etc.

What Is an Inactive Lifestyle?

An inactive lifestyle is very often described as being a couch potato or not exercising, a lifestyle that includes a lot of sitting and lying down. An inactive lifestyle increases all causes of mortality and health risks of certain diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, colorectal cancer, and epithelial and endometrial cancers. Inactive lifestyles are also associated with metabolic dysfunctions like elevated plasma triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and reduced insulin sensitivity. In addition, reduced physical activity decreases bone mineral density.

What Is the Effect of an Inactive Lifestyle on the Body?

When you have an inactive lifestyle, your body gets affected in many different ways:

  • There is the risk of an increase in your weight. As you do not burn calories, you tend to gain weight.

  • Your body may develop a hormonal imbalance.

  • Weak immune system.

  • Poor blood circulation.

  • Poor and loss of muscle and bone strength.

  • Loss of mineral content in the bones.

  • It will affect your metabolism; the body will have difficulty breaking down fats and sugars.

  • The body will become inflamed.

What Is the Health Risk of an Inactive Lifestyle?

An inactive lifestyle can be one of the main reasons for many chronic diseases. Inactivity tends to increase with age. On average, women are more likely to lead inactive lifestyles than men. By not getting regular exercise, you can suffer from many diseases.

It can affect your health like:

  • It is strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and an increase in premature mortality.

  • Diabetes Mellitus - Studies have proved that increasing sedentary time affects type 2 diabetes mellitus. Daily sedentary time has also increased the risk of diabetes mellitus. It is shown that prolonged sitting affects the content and activity of muscle glucose transporter protein. It is also observed that prolonged muscle inactivity reduces the LPL activity, which regulates the blood lipid concentration and carbohydrate metabolism.

  • Hypertension - An inactive lifestyle affects blood pressure through various mechanisms. It changes blood pressure by altering the cardiac output and total peripheral vascular resistance. There is a risk of hypertension observed in patients with inactive lifestyles.

  • Dyslipidemia - An inactive lifestyle causes metabolic dysfunctions by increasing triglyceride levels, reducing HDL cholesterol levels, and diminishing insulin sensitivity. It also leads to metabolic dysfunctions like hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and changes in the circulation levels of sex hormones. In addition, the altered levels of sex hormones can lead to hormone-related cancers.

  • Obesity - An increase in the number of obese patients is due to a decrease in the physical inactivity of the people. Being physically active can have a positive effect on overall health.

  • Heart Disease - Not enough physical exercise can lead to heart disease, even for people without any risk factors.

  • Cancer Risk - According to some studies, cancer risk was found more in people with a sedentary lifestyle than those who are active. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. In addition, there is increased cancer mortality seen predominantly in women.

  • Musculoskeletal Diseases - Prolonged inactive lifestyle is correlated with chronic knee pain. The incidence of chronic knee pain is found more in people with an inactive lifestyle.

  • Risk of Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is greater in people with an inactive lifestyle.

  • Depression - Mentally passive sedentary behaviors like television, sitting, binge-watching, listening to music, and talking were correlated with depression risks. There is an increased feeling of depression and anxiety.

  • Cognitive Function - There is a relationship between an inactive lifestyle and cognitive function. It has been found that replacing sedentary time with any physical activity can help in improving cognitive functioning.

What Are the Different Ways to Be Active?

A sedentary lifestyle affects you in many different ways. But there are other things you can start and implement in your day-to-day life to be active. You can find out which is the best for you.

At Home or Around the House:

  • You can engage yourself in doing housework.

  • Gardening and yard work.

  • Try to do some stretches, do yoga exercises, ride an indoor bicycle, lift weights, and do light exercises.

  • Try to work out at home by watching workout videos.

  • Try going for a walk. You can go for a walk with your kids, a pet, or friends, which can make walking more fun.

  • Stand up or walk while talking on the phone.

  • You can get some equipment at home, like treadmills, elliptical trainers, and abdominal boards, but not everyone can afford it or have space to keep them. So you can get less expensive equipment like yoga mats, stretch bands, hand weights, exercise balls, or mats.

In-Office or At Work:

  • Try to get up from your chair and move around once an hour.

  • Walk while you are talking on your phone.

  • Take stairs instead of elevators. This can make you active.

  • Do not continuously sit in one place for hours; try to move around.

Benefits of Being Physically Active?

  • It helps in preventing unhealthy weight gain.

  • Helps depression and anxiety.

  • Improves mood.

  • Improvement in sleep quality.

  • Improves bone and skeletal health.

  • Reduces the risk of many chronic diseases.


If you cannot avoid the total sedentary time, it is advisable to engage in light physical activities and later try to increase the physical activity gradually. An inactive active lifestyle has adverse health effects that have increased mortality risk. Therefore, people should try to be active and reduce their sedentary time as much as possible because the more inactive you are, the higher your health risks are.

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Dr. Arpit Varshney
Dr. Arpit Varshney

General Medicine


sedentary lifestyle
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