Jennifer Rothman
Jennifer Rothman

Jennifer Rothman is a copywriter and columnist, specializing in delivering informative content you can trust.

Updated: Sep 23, 2020
One More Reason to Give Up Sedentary Behavior


With the world quite literally at our fingertips thanks to modern technology, it’s become easier than ever for individuals to develop a more sedentary lifestyle. With a decrease in physical activity comes a rising concern from the medical community that these patterns of idleness over long periods of time are leading to severe health conditions that could otherwise be prevented. Independent of exercise, its suggested that individuals displaying consistent behavior of uninterrupted physical inactivity, are at an increased risk of cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), more commonly known as a stroke.  

Less Movement Linked to More Harm 

 Despite ongoing studies indicating its potential risks, persistent sedentary behavior is often neglected as a factor for increasing the potential of an individual falling victim to a stroke.  While lifestyle choices such as smoking, consistent use of alcohol or drugs, and poor eating habits are more commonly cautioned as a trigger behind the 5th leading cause of death in the United States, it’s in fact excessive sitting that’s prompting a more serious conversation around its negative effects on an individual’s health. 

An astonishing 9% of all premature deaths on a global scale are reportedly due to lack of activity. Even those who incorporate exercise into their daily routines are at risk if the majority of their day consists of sitting in place, such as deskbound at work or in their home watching TV or scrolling through social media.  However, without enough awareness around its damaging effects, excessive sitting will continue to take a backseat to our health and wellbeing. 

How Does the Body Respond to Too Much Sitting?

At the most basic level, sitting for too long places an uneven pressure on the spine which was designed to help the body stand up straight. As many individuals submit to sitting with their shoulders hunched over, the muscles, ligaments and tissues surrounding the spine are strained from having to adjust to the unnatural curvature. 

Subsequently, the chest cavity is forced to shrink in an effort to accommodate this convex position, thus limiting the amount of room the lungs have to expand and ultimately reducing blood flow and oxygen entering the bloodstream. 

Since your brain requires a steady flow of blood to function properly, decreased delivery of oxygen results in dying brain cells and dramatically increases the risk of a stroke. 

Persistent sitting is starting to get on your body’s last nerve

Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) is another consequence of prolonged sitting that heightens an individual’s risk of suffering from a stroke. After being seated in place for an extended period of time, the nerves, arteries and veins in the most compressed areas become blocked, restricting signals between the nerves and causing numbness.

 The legs in particular are highly susceptible, and since the body depends on those muscles to circulate blood in that area to the heart, they face an increased risk of clot formations that can result in venous thromboembolism (VTE). Upon moving or breaking apart, these clots can travel to the brain and ultimately result in a cerebrovascular accident.

Long periods of sitting still are putting your enzymes at a stand still

In addition to disrupting proper circulation and blood flow to the brain, extended periods of inactivity can also result in temporarily deactivating the enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase (LPL). 

Found in the walls of blood capillaries, these enzymes contribute to the breakdown of fat in the blood; however, when exposed to prolonged lack of movement, their ability to properly function diminishes, and the body becomes more susceptible to increased fat storage leading to weight gain. From this comes a higher chance of heart problems associated with high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and diabetes, all leading to a heightened…and avoidable… risk of stroke.

Early introduction of physical activity for stroke victims

An increase in physical activity, however, isn’t limited to just a preventative measure. Since stroke victims are more susceptible to recurrent CVA and cardiovascular disease, studies indicate that increased physical activity can be effective in diminishing the risk of subsequent incidents.

Research suggests that stroke victims spend in excess of 80% of the day in a sedentary position, substantially more than healthy peers of a similar age. Although the primary cause of immobility in stroke victims is neurological damage, its suggested that post-incident restrictions are heighted as a result of corresponding musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory changes due to lack of movement.

With such little activity, individuals are at higher risk of increased blood pressure and cholesterol, insulin resistance and recurrent stroke. In an effort to minimize physical limitations post stroke, numerous trials have been performed to determine if rehabilitation consisting of early mobilization can be beneficial. While early studies remain inconclusive, trials continue throughout rehabilitation programs in an effort to identify the correct amount of activity required to improve quality of life post stroke.  

A healthy lifestyle never goes out of style

From properly circulating blood flow to delivering oxygen to the brain, the body is intricately connected. In an effort to implement harmony between all of these functions, it’s more important than ever to identify ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle throughout your everyday routines. From the boardroom to the living room, establishing habits to increase movement throughout the day will help in the prevention of avoidable medical conditions and provide a boost in your overall health and well-being.

Take the necessary steps to combat sedentary behavior

Even the slightest introduction of physical activity can significantly decrease your risk of a stroke among other unwanted health conditions. Since 50-60% of all sitting takes place in a work environment, simply choosing to stand for 15 minutes after sitting for an hour can increase your metabolism and subsequently decrease your fat storage, helping to lower your risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases leading to CVA. Other simple changes may consist of walking around your office rather than sitting at your desk when taking a brief phone call, opting for the steps instead of taking the elevator every other day or parking your car further than you usually would to increase the amount of steps for the week. 

Join the movement that promotes more movement

In conclusion, it’s of the utmost importance that individuals introduce physical activity into their daily routines to help eliminate the risk of stroke and prevent recurrent incidents in those who have previously suffered from one. Even the simplest of modifications can be highly effective in helping to improve cognitive functions, reducing risk of premature death stemming from cerebrovascular accidents and aiding in the improvement of overall quality of life. So, when it comes to introducing preventative measures that counter prolonged sitting, the time has never been better for you to quite literally take a stand.