4 Negative Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle on the Body

Our bodies are naturally designed to move, requiring physical activity to maintain smooth muscle and joint functions. When we don’t exercise due to work constraints or lack of time, our bodies react negatively. Over time, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle include reduced circulation, chronic conditions, and other health concerns. If changes aren’t made as soon as possible, these issues could be permanent.

Regular exercise offers several benefits, such as weight management, improved cholesterol levels, higher brain functions, and decreased cancer risk. Taking movement breaks during long sitting periods is vital for increased quality of life. And if you’re still not convinced, take a look at the following sections to learn the impact of sedentary behavior.

Elderly people enjoying at adult day care center to reduce the Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle

Negative Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle

Brief instances of sedentary behavior won’t have a huge impact on your life. But if you spend hours each day sitting or lying down, before long you’ll notice the negative effects. The issues discussed below are the most common health problems, some of which are life-threatening if not remedied.

Poor circulation

Cardiovascular health is one of the first areas threatened by physical inactivity. During exercise, arteries expand, increasing circulation and blood oxygen levels. The effects of a sedentary lifestyle cause those same vessels to contract. Circulation slows, causing blood to pool in your legs, increasing the risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

Poor circulation also causes additional cardiovascular problems due to thinning or hardening of the arteries. Such conditions include hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke.

Increased risk of chronic diseases

As well as cardiovascular issues, several other chronic conditions are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. For instance, those lacking physical activity in their routine are more likely to develop diabetes. Studies show sedentary behavior increases insulin resistance, preventing the body from converting glucose to energy and raising blood sugar.

The higher glucose levels also increase body fat. Without exercise, you aren’t using those extra calories, increasing the risk of obesity. Prolonged sitting has even been linked to prostate, ovarian, colorectal, and endometrial cancers, especially in women.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Your bones also suffer the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, including decreased bone mineral density. Over time, if not corrected, the reduced density could result in osteoporosis, particularly in women.

Studies also show that occupational and non-occupational sedentary behavior causes musculoskeletal pain. It could affect the knees, hips, shoulders, and neck, depending on how long and how often you’re sitting. Chronic conditions, like arthritis, could also worsen from a lack of physical activity.

Mental disorders

Lacking physical activity doesn’t just affect physical health. Recent studies also link it to several mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. The activities involved in a sedentary lifestyle often isolate you, lowering social interactions. The effects of such behavior alter emotional stability and feelings of self-worth.

The more time you spend inactive, the worse the symptoms of mental disorders become. Adding a lack of support and poor sleep habits exacerbates the issue, causing higher rates of mental disorders. Fortunately, the average adult only needs about 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity to stay healthy.

Compelling evidence indicates that engaging in physical activities can effectively diminish feelings of anxiety, depression, and negativity. Both reviews and randomized controlled trials support this conclusion.

Research conducted in Australia revealed elevated levels of depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms linked to shifts in physical activity levels.

Lack of physical activity can lead to changes in brain chemistry and reduced production of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation.

Prolonged sitting and lack of physical activity have been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of conditions such as dementia. Regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. 6


  1. Alessio Daniele, Samuel J. E. Lucas, Catarina Rendeiro, Sept. 27, 2022, Detrimental effects of physical inactivity on peripheral and brain vasculature in humans: Insights into mechanisms, long-term health consequences and protective strategies https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9553009/
  2. Nov 19, 2020, Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of updated evidence of potential health risks https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7700832/
  3. 13, 2021, Musculosketal pain and sedentary behaviour in occupational and non-occupational settings: a systematic review with meta-analysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8666269/
  4. 16, 2023, Mental distress links with physical activities, sedentary lifestyle, social support, and sleep problems: A Syrian population cross-sectional study
  5. The Effect of Sedentism on Mental Wellbeing by By Hidaya Aliouche, B.Sc. https://www.news-medical.net/health/The-Effect-of-Sedentism-on-Mental-Wellbeing.aspx
  6. What older adults do while they sit affects dementia risk, study finds By University Communications and University of Southern California Aug. 22, 2022
This article is for educational and informational purpose only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. For any questions about your own health condition, speak to a qualified physician or healthcare provider.