It's become more and more apparent within modern societies that sedentary lifestyles are more prevalent and that health risks come along with such a lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle has very little or non-existent physical activity. Habits such as sitting for prolonged periods during working hours, then repeating the same habit during personal hours is an example of many people's daily lives.

Exercise and Guidelines

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective of improvement or maintenance of physical fitness (1). The government guidelines set out within the UK regarding physical activity can be seen as:

  • Children and young people aged 5-18 should engage in at least 60 minutes spread throughout the week (2).
  • Adults aged 19-64 should for 2 ½ hours per week of moderate activity, spread throughout the week aiming to be active daily (2).
  • Adults aged 65 years + should for 2 ½ hours per week of moderate activity, spread throughout the week aiming to active daily, with a view that any physical activity is better than none with more providing greater health benefits (2).

The government guidelines are quite straightforward and should be realistic achievements for most individuals, however, statistics within the UK and US, unfortunately, consists of unwarranted results relating to activity levels.

As seen in the figures below, up until November 2018, two thirds of adults (66%) were considered active as per the government guidelines and 22% were considered to be inactive (3).

As of 2017, the US Department of Health & Human Services said that less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, only 1 in 3 adults achieve the recommended amount of physical activity each week . Additionally, more than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities (4).

Health Risks

Researchers state that there is strong evidence worldwide for health risks being associated with lack of physical activity such as (5):

  • Death (from any cause) / shortened life expectancy.
  • Coronary heart disease. 
  • High blood pressure.
  • Stroke. 
  • Metabolic syndrome (including obesity and abnormal blood cholesterol levels). 
  • Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Breast and colon cancer. 
  • Depression.

The above research was conducted through information collected through self reported activity levels which could be a limitation to the findings. However, further research has found that men who reported being in a car for more than 10 hours per week had an 82% greater risk of cardiovascular disease mortality compared to men who reported fewer than 4 hours per week (6). Furthermore, out of 42,612 respondents from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey Cross-tabulations found that approximately 25% of men and 24% of women who reported watching television 21 hours or more per week were classified as obese regardless of leisure time (7). 

Achieving Daily Activity

Small changes within your day can go a long way in creating new positive habits relating to physical activity and it may not be as daunting as you think. Aim to maintain such activity like household chores, and achieving moderate intensity exercise can be done in ways such as 30 minutes a day of brisk walking 5 times a week equalling the recommendation 2 ½ hours per week. A total of 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across a week can get comparable benefits or a combination of both vigorous intensity and moderate intensity (2). On top of activity, reducing inactivity such as TV time with breaks such as small walks, whether your work or home, can be beneficial (2).


Daily activity can be beneficial in the reduction of health risks and potentially other health related improvements. It’s clear that current worldwide trends regarding activity and inactivity need close attention, and a greater understanding of the effects a sedentary lifestyle has on physiological health especially is required. Additionally, fighting against such habits to achieve a lifestyle change needs to be entirely context related to an individual, and even though mass recommendations can be made, individual considerations should also be made.