​7 Surprising Ways You Wreck Your Body When You Don’t Get Off Your Butt

​7 Surprising Ways You Wreck Your Body When You Don’t Get Off Your Butt

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #1: YOUR MOOD TAKES A DIVE

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Feeling down? Blame your chair: Research continues to show that long periods spent sitting can have a significant impact on your mental health. A 2022 study showed that sitting time was strongly associated with adverse mental health effects during the Covid lockdowns.

What’s more, other types of sedentary behavior—like watching TV or playing electronic games—can increase your risk for anxiety, according to a meta-analysis of nine studies published in BMC Public Health. The reviewers suggest that engaging in “screen-based entertainment,” as they call it, may get your central nervous system all riled up and invite anxiety. Screens may also disrupt sleep, bringing on anxiety that way.

If you’re spending your time on screens, you’re probably not fitting in enough physical activity, the researchers say.

And that’s important, since exercise has mood-boosting benefits. Some research indicates that cardio can boost your mood just as effectively as prescribed antidepressants.

Walking not working for you today? Check out these quick workouts you can do any time, anywhere (we call them fitness snacks).

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #2: YOUR CANCER RISK GOES UP

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A 2021 review paper found that sedentary behavior significantly increases your risk for several types of cancer. It suggested that an estimated 30 to 40 percent of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes including increased physical activity.

Being sedentary has been linked to having extra pounds. And large studies have consistently shown that higher levels of body fat can spike your cancer risk. Chronic local inflammation from this fat can lead to cancer-causing DNA damage over time, according to the National Cancer Institute. Plus, a surplus of fat cells eventually produce hormones that lead to cell proliferation, a process that causes your cells to grow and divide rapidly.

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #3: YOU START TO FORGET THINGS

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Your brain health suffers when you lounge for too long. In one study of nearly 50,000 adults, published in JAMA, researchers found that the more time older adults spent being sedentary, the higher the risk of dementia.

This isn’t about the occasional day of carcass time. Scientists saw that dementia risk increased when people spent more than 10 hours a day being sedentary (which isn’t that hard to do, even if you make a point to work out daily). That means it’s important to stay active, rather than planted in a chair, throughout the day.

There are other ways to keep your brain young, too. Check out these easy strategies.

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #4: YOUR BLOOD SUGAR SPIKES

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Even if you’re at a healthy weight, your blood sugar levels can rise if you’re parked in a chair for too long, according to a 2020 study. The study results showed that decreasing sitting time and making a point to take breaks to move could be beneficial in improving blood-sugar regulation in type 2 diabetes.

If you’re in the prediabetes range, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight (about 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound guy) and making time for 150 minutes of exercise a week can delay the onset of full-fledged diabetes, according to the CDC.

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #5: YOUR SEX LIFE SLOWS DOWN

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Your inactive behavior can lead to extra pounds, and those might be setting yourself up for penis problems down the road. Men with a bigger belly—or a waist of 42 inches or more—are about twice as likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those with waist sizes below 32 inches, one Harvard study found.

Your swimmers can take a hit, too. Men who binged on TV for more than 5 hours a day had 29 percent lower sperm concentration than men who didn’t watch any TV, Danish research found.

Take note: The work you put in at the gym follows you to the bedroom. A 2018 study showed that having a healthy body-fat percentage is tied to having positive experiences with regard to sexual health and function

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #6: YOU’LL TOSS AND TURN

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Ever feel like you sleep more soundly after logging a great workout? That’s because exercising at least 150 minutes a week can improve the quality of your shuteye, according to a 2018 study.

Those who exercise vigorously are nearly twice as likely to experience a good night’s sleep every night compared to people who avoid the gym, a National Sleep Foundation poll found.

In fact, more than two-thirds of vigorous exercisers reported almost never experiencing symptoms associated with insomnia. On the flip side, 50 percent of people who don’t exercise reported waking up in the middle of the night.

Use this 30-day plan to reboot your sleep and reap the benefits.

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SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR EFFECT #7: YOUR BACKACHE GETS WORSE

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The effects of slouching in front of your computer can last beyond your workday. Sitting for as little as 4 hours straight can increase pressure on the disks in your lower back, a Penn State study found. This compression can lead to disk degeneration, a common culprit behind back pain.

So get up and move, the researchers suggest. When the participants in the study changed their position every 15 minutes, they didn’t see any adverse effects in their disks.

If you already have back pain, it doesn’t have to nix your workout. Here’s a safe and supportive way to train around back pain.

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THE BEST WAY TO GET BACK ON TRACK

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You don’t need to block out serious amounts of time to get your butt out of the chair. To get the health benefits from the recommended amount of physical activity a day, you don’t even have to do all those minutes at once.

Moderate activity gets your heart rate up a bit, which could be anything from walking around the house to going up and down a flight of stairs a few times.

If you want to increase your fitness while you’re at it, check our popular 7-Minute Workout book.

Take a minute or 10 to just get up and do something. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans list 20 health benefits just from getting the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and two days a week of strength moves. There aren’t a lot of other things you can do in that small amount of time that that bring your body and mind that many benefits.

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