Over the recent years, with the COVID19 crisis and the pandemical lockdowns, entertainment and work have taken huge turns towards indoors premises. With a rise in the number of streaming and entertainment platforms and having to work from home, came a rise in physical inactivity as well. This situation has given way to innumerable complex scenarios where the importance of physical performances can be acknowledged. A recent study shows that more than 30% of the world’s population, aged 15 and above, is involved in insufficient physical activity that leads to an estimated 3.2 million deaths, annually.
Physical stagnation is not the only cause of these dilemmas. Sedentary lifestyle is a major contributing factor in the numbers as well. A sedentary lifestyle is defined as one with substantial sitting, lying down, and little to no physical indulgence. Take the American population, for instance, who spend more than half (55%) of their day engaged in sedentary behaviors, whereas Europeans spend around 40% of their spare time watching television.
Causes of Sedentary Lifestyle
Every effect has a cause and so does sedentary behavior of any said population. These causes are speculated to a contribution of several factors. First and foremost, environmental factors play a leading role in the provision of a growing ground for physical health; these factors include traffic crowding, air pollution, scarcity of parks and pedestrian walkways, and a shortage of sports facilities.
Socio-cultural factors are increasingly becoming the cause of a sedentary lifestyle. In developed countries, an increase in inactive lifestyle can be seen without any expert insight. As technology expands and helps make lives easier, in the background, it is also taking its toll on the health of everyone.
Risks Associated with an Inactive Lifestyle
The number of ways that an inactive routine puts an individual’s life at a gradual risk are extensive. The risks include the development of heart conditions, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and cancers of several organs.
Sedentary behavior is one that is not bound solely to the body; mental passiveness can also have adverse effects on one’s wellbeing. Such behaviors include, watching television for prolonged periods, sitting, talking while sitting, and listening to music which are associated with risks of depression. On the other hand, sedentary behaviors involving mental activity, such as reading, driving, solving a puzzle, or even knitting and sewing, were not associated with the causes of depression. Interestingly, physical activity has been directly associated with mental health improvement and is a common practice.
What is the Next Step?
Being trapped in a lifestyle that barely leaves any chance of dedication to personal health does not mean all hope for an active lifestyle is lost. In addition to taking steps personally towards a healthier lifestyle, like jogging and few minutes of yoga or other exercises, we can also make sure that the World Health Organization Guidelines for an active and healthy life do not go unnoticed.
How the WHO Guidelines Can Help
To improve the public health, global and national guidelines on physical activities are crucial. The WHO promotes all countries to develop regulations that shape a healthier future for the public. This will allow people of all ages to develop a dedication to personal health.
These guidelines are the keys to creating balance in participation and diminishing inequalities in participation based on gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographical positioning. For instance, adults that are past their prime cannot be given the same physical activities as a teenager to maintain a healthy routine. Not only these guidelines have been made keeping in mind individuals of all ages and genders, but also every aspect of their lives. Here are some of their evidence-based recommendations for improving physical activities:
- Aerobic Physical Activity: In other words, called endurance activity helps better cardiorespiratory fitness. It includes activities that make the large muscles of the body move in a rhythmic behavior such as walking, jogging, running, and swimming.
- Bone Strengthening Activity: Physical activities of the nature that help strengthen the bones at specific sites in order to fortify the skeletal makeup. The eventual goal of the activity is to promote bone growth and strength through tension or impact force. Jumps, running, and weightlifting are categorized as such activities.
- Domains of Physical Activity: Physical activity can be practiced in various areas. Majorly, these areas can be classified into four groups: leisure, occupation, education, and home/transport, each with their respective guidelines.
For an extensive review of the guidelines, please refer to: World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior.
Although the primary audiences of these guidelines are regulators and policy makers in the ministries of health, education, sports, and transports etc., they are also a map to guide the public towards the right path when it comes to putting their health first. Using these guidelines parents can assess whether the level of activities promoted in educational institutes are ideal or not. Employees get to work around a desk most of their time (creating a sedimentary routine), thus being aware of these guidelines will help them choose a career path that prioritizes their success and personal health.
- Park, J. H., Moon, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kong, M. H., & Oh, Y. H. (2020). Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 41(6), 365–373. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.20.0165
- Bull, F. C., Al-Ansari, S. S., Biddle, S., Borodulin, K., Buman, M. P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J. P., Chastin, S., Chou, R., Dempsey, P. C., DiPietro, L., Ekelund, U., Firth, J., Friedenreich, C. M., Garcia, L., Gichu, M., Jago, R., Katzmarzyk, P. T., . . . Willumsen, J. F. (2020). World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(24), 1451–1462. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2020-102955