Sedentary Lifestyle: Man’s Greatest Foe

Major health issues all tied to what is now known as sitting disease

DAYTON, Ohio (May 13, 2013) – The human body was designed with motion in mind, but society’s ever-increasing technological advances have created an environment where men do just the opposite – sit.

Consistent shifts in the way society functions have gradually led to lifestyles that cause people to spend more time sitting still than moving about. The advent of email and prevalence of cell phone usage has decreased the need to move from one place to another to communicate with others. And the dip in manual labor has also required men to spend eight hours a day sitting behind a computer screen instead of actively using their body. The health effects of a sedentary lifestyle have come to be known as “sitting disease.”

“Everything (in our society) is aimed at speeding up the interaction of people and communication, but in the process, physical activity decreases consistently,” said Mark Ringle, MD, of Beavercreek Family Physicians. “We speed up our workload so we can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time so we have more free time. But what do we do with that?”

About 2 million deaths each year are attributed to physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO warns that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the top 10 leading causes of death around the world and it also estimates that to 85 percent of individuals in both developing and under-developed countries lead sedentary lifestyles.

Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, and depression and anxiety, according to WHO.  A study by the American Academy of Family Physicians surveyed 2,300 men and found that 42 percent had one or more of the following diseases: high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, cancer or diabetes. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 71 percent of men in the United States are either mildly or severely overweight.

Dr. Ringle believes a sedentary lifestyle is just a symptom of a bigger problem: “I think the problem is actually the attitude of men,” he said. “If they begin to see this is a problem then they will begin to think of ways to combat the issue.”

Once men understand how serious the issue is then they can begin forming a realistic plan to combat it. Dr. Ringle suggests men choose a form of exercise they can do for 30 minutes every day. He warns against choosing something that is too hard or has unrealistic requirements. Next, he recommends men evaluate their Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines NEAT as the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It can include walking to work, performing yard work and even fidgeting. These trivial activities increase metabolic rate substantially. Dr. Ringle suggests that men find ways to increase these types of activities whether it be parking the car farther from a store entrance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Small changes in the workplace also can help. Dr. Ringle suggests men alternate sitting at a desk with standing, getting up to stretch or walk around the office for ten minutes out of every hour, conducting meetings while taking a walk outside, walking to a colleagues desk to deliver a message rather than emailing it and moving equipment farther from their desk so they have to get up and walk to it.

Most importantly, men need to keep in mind that a sedentary lifestyle is just one piece of a bigger picture when it comes to leading a healthy life. Dr. Ringle urges men to diligently receive preventative care from their primary care physician and make other lifestyle changes such as getting six to eight hours of sleep each night, limiting alcohol use, not smoking and getting good nutrition.

View frequently asked questions about men’s health.


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