A Sedentary Lifestyle – Do You Need to Go to the Gym?

February 12, 2020
Avoiding the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle involves changing it into one in which physical activity is a part of your daily life. So, how can you achieve it? Continue reading to find out.

According to several studies on physical inactivity, 36.8% of the population leads a sedentary lifestyle and doesn’t move enough. However, the worst part is this figure continues to get worse: the population is increasingly leading a life that is neither active nor healthy.

In 2018, The Lancet published the results of a meta-analysis conducted with 1.9 million participants, showing concerning figures of physical inactivity in Western countries.

On the other hand, it seems that gym fitness is now the most common form of physical exercise in various countries according to a recent health and fitness market report.

Physical inactivity is a sort of epidemic in well-developed countries, and yet these countries have the highest gym enrollment.

However, according to the study, the gym isn’t a good solution for getting people to live active lives. This is because, regardless of the theoretical benefits, it isn’t motivating enough and people usually don’t stick to the fitness programs. Also, hitting the gym just isn’t enough to fight our sedentary lifestyles:

Going to the gym doesn’t really improve our state of health if we spend the rest of our time sitting down. A sedentary lifestyle leads to twice as many deaths related to obesity around the world. Also, there’s an associated cardiovascular risk and it isn’t dependent on weight.

Should you go to the gym?

A woman lifting weights.

In terms of health, it seems that going to the gym isn’t as healthy as you may think, because it doesn’t keep you from sitting for long periods. Meanwhile, this activity isn’t even covering your physical activity needs because most people don’t stick with it. This lack of adherence may be because going to the gym requires personal time and because it’s often boring and challenging, especially if you’re not already fit.

In fact, various studies point out that the majority of people who begin a fitness program and abandon it do so because they don’t have enough time for it or because it isn’t fun or is too hard.

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A sedentary lifestyle: how to be physically active

As we said above, physical inactivity is a problem in all western countries, and it seems the gym doesn’t offer a solution. So, to avoid problems derived from physical inactivity, we must:

The true key to ending a sedentary lifestyle is making physical activity an integral part of your daily routine.

The WHO recommends a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate physical activity per day (150 minutes per week). However, most studies indicate that cardiovascular risk significantly decreases when the activity exceeds 7,500 steps/day. This is about 1 hour and 15 minutes of movement. Overall, the more active you are, the healthier you can be (without overdoing it, of course!). As a minimum, it’s important to at least reach the 150 weekly minutes recommended by the WHO.

Learn more: Three Scientifically Proven Low Back Pain Exercises

A person walking.

Here are a few tips to do so:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Bike or walk to and from work.
  • Walk to your children’s schools to drop them off and pick them up.
  • Do your shopping locally. To increase your physical activity, keep your grocery purchases small and go shopping more frequently. If it’s impossible due to your daily demands, then at least walk to the grocery store and see if you can have any large purchases delivered so you can walk back.
  • Try to avoid vehicles on any trip that would take you less than 20 minutes. Instead, walk or bike.
  • Opt for public transportation.
  • Do your own household chores.
  • Finish your day with a short walk. This contributes to both your physical health and your psychological well-being.
  • Find a fun activity you can join that gets you moving.

More strategies to prevent a sedentary lifestyle

In addition to all the above, it’s important to implement certain strategies within your workplace. This is because you spend a lot of your time there and it’s part of your sedentary lifestyle. A lack of activity in the workplace makes it hard to comply with physical activity recommendations.

A man coming out of a building.
You must try to be active at work.

Include physical activity in your daily routine:

  • Try to schedule meetings in remote places if you can. Don’t have them all in the room next door.
  • Promote “standing meetings” in your workplace. If there are less than 3-4 people, you could even have them while going for a walk!
  • If you need to talk to someone, then walk to their desk and limit your use of the phone.
  • Identify the activities you must do outside of your job and for which you don’t have a set schedule. Then, distribute them throughout the day. Ideally, get a reason to get up from your chair every hour.
  • If you exercise whenever you can, try to do so when you know you’ll be less active.
  • Finally, if you can’t concentrate, then take a 5-minute walk. It’ll help activate you and you’ll be able to resume your intellectual activity and accomplish more.

Keep in mind that it isn’t enough to comply with the daily physical activity recommendations to avoid the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. You must also minimize your chair time. So, forget about the gym. It’s not the best solution. The real solution lies in building an active lifestyle in which physical activity is a part of our daily routines.

  • Ekelund, U., et al. (2015). Physicall activity and all-cause mortality across levels of general and abdominal adiposity. The European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition study (EPIC). Soy J Clin Nutr, 101(3): 613-211. doi: 10.3945 / ajcn.114.100065
  • Guthold, R., Stevens, G.A., Riley, L.M. & Bull, F.C. (2018). Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants. Lancet Glob Health, 6(1): e1077-e1086. Consultado el 11/12/2019. Recuperado de: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30357-7/fulltext
  • Macarro Moreno, J., Romero Cerezo, C. & Torres Guerrero, J. (2010). Motivos de abandono de la práctica de actividad físico-deportiva en los estudiantes de bachillerato de la provincia de Granada. Revista de Educación, 353(1): 495-519. Consultado el 11/12/2019. Recuperado de http://www.revistaeducacion.educacion.es/re353/re353_18.pdf 
  • Martínez Baena, A.C, Chillón, P., Martín Matillas, M., Pérez López, I., Castillo, R., Zapatera, B., Vicente Rodríguez, G., Casajús, J.A., Álvarez Granda, L., Romero Cerezo, C., Tercedor, P. & Delgado Fernández, M.  (2012). Motivos de abandono y no práctica de actividad físico-deportivo en adolescentes españoles: estudio Avena. Cuadernos de Psicología del Deporte, 12(1): 45-54. Consultado el 11/12/2019. Recuperado de http://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1578-84232012000100005