Three Dangers of Living a Sedentary Lifestyle (and How to Break the Sitting Cycle)

image of a man sitting down with his laptopIn the age of digital connectivity, stationary work computers and endless movie streaming services like Netflix, it is now easier than ever for the average American to function – and even get things done – with minimal physical effort. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of Americans, age 18 and older, fail to meet the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity.1 As a result, the absence of exercise hasn’t just become a health risk for today’s society; it’s a widespread epidemic that must be addressed.

Thus today, we’re discussing the medical dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle and what you can do to break the sitting cycle and take control of your health.

Top Three Dangers of Living a Sedentary Lifestyle

1. Excess Weight

Possibly the most obvious medical threat of sitting for too many hours, day after day, is the result of accumulating unwanted pounds. To understand how this phenomenon occurs, one must only keep in mind the basic principle of calorie intake versus calorie output:

When the body is unable to burn off the thousands of calories it consumes at mealtime each day, those extra calories become stored in the body as fat cells. While this process may not be detrimental to the body if calorie input exceeds calorie output for only days at a time, repeated absence of physical activity can wreak havoc on an individual’s body mass index.

2. Widespread Pain

Consider the core structure of the human body for a moment: our bones – everything from our fingers to our arms and even our ribs – all route inward so that they can be joined together and supported by the spine. Without this critical pillar of stability, a human being would not be able to sit up straight, much less stand!

Unfortunately, sitting for prolonged hours each day is not a spine-friendly activity. For instance, when you work at your computer desk or hang out on the couch, your mind begins to relax. As your brain wanders away from whatever task you have instructed it to focus on, your body’s posture begins to weaken;2 you start to slouch, inevitably curling your spine into an unnatural position in the process. If this position is maintained for too long, the added pressure of compressing your spine may seep into your other extremities, leading to chronic back pain, neck pain and even headaches.

3. Devastating Diseases

Have you ever heard that “sitting is the new smoking?” How about, “sitting is like a cancer?” Unfortunately, these phrases are not exaggerations.

According to a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, an absence of physical activity increases the risk of death from heart attack, cardiovascular disease and cancer by as much as 125 percent!3 Even more alarming, the same study found that enduring several hours of fierce activity, in addition to prolonged bouts of sitting, did not offset the risks associated with sedentarism.

How to Break Your Sedentary Life Cycle

So if adding physical activity to a mostly sedentary lifestyle is not effective enough to reduce the dangers of sitting too much, what can be done to improve your overall health?

The answer: be more active throughout your day, every day.

The key to eliminating the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle is to be more conscious about how much or how little you move over the course of 24 hours. To help measure your fitness level and identify opportunities to increase activity, consider investing in a fitness tracker. Many of today’s leading trackers offer an array of features to help you get a better understanding of your overall health – such as steps taken, calories burned, exercise logged and quality of sleep – and even encourage you to move more throughout the day with hourly move reminders.

For more tips on how to lead a more active lifestyle, check out our Fitness Fiends mini blog series here.4



1 National Center for Health Statistics: Exercise or Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 20, 2017, from

2 What happens to your body when you sit for too long? Lifehack. Published March 20, 2016, from

3 What are the risks of sitting too much? Mayo Clinic. Published September 4, 2015, from

4 Fitness Fiends. The Mutual Fund Store Life Insurance. Retrieved April 27, 2017 from

Term Life Insurance products offered through TMFS Insurance Agency LLC, a separate company, affiliated with Financial Engines Advisors, L.L.C. (FEA), in states where licensed. TMFS Insurance Agency, LLC is under common ownership with FEA. Each entity is its own separate entity that provides services for its client independent from the other.

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