Dayana Aleksandrova
Dayana Aleksandrova

Dayana Aleksandrova is a Copywriter and content creator passionate about the wellness industry.

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

A lifestyle that’s low in physical activity has become the norm over the past few decades. The American workforce has become 83% more sedentary over the last eighty years alone, and the trend doesn’t end there. More and more students are falling victim to a sedentary lifestyle. From first-graders to high school and college students, those aged 7 to 23 are on track to be the most sedentary generation yet, risking major health threats.

How did we get here? If students are supposed to be the healthiest group of society, why are we seeing increased obesity and anxiety? The problem is two-fold. On one hand, the readily-available technology coupled with screen entertainment has become the new pastime. Additionally, the majority of schoolwork has moved to online platforms, requiring students to spend hours on end on their computers writing essays and solving equations.

The overall effect has been catastrophic. Students are becoming obese and developing anxiety. On the flip side, this process can be reversed with a few changes in daily environment and lifestyle.

Technology is to blame for the sedentary lifestyle of students

Technology and convenience play a key role in students’ sedentary lifestyles. While thirty years ago, kids spent their free time playing hide and seek and jumping rope around the block, now they sit in a chair playing Assassin’s Creed and cultivating virtual farms on Facebook. The same goes for high school and college students. In a study of 4,028 high schoolers, a whopping 76.3% of boys and 29.2% of girls reported playing video games regularly. In college, the results are even worse with 70% of students admitting to frequent gaming. Staring at a screen harms your cognitive abilities and leads to a poor attention span.

Tight homework deadlines are the other major contributing factor to a sedentary lifestyle for students. How do you finish a 10-page paper that’s due tomorrow when it’s already midnight and you’re dying to sleep? Failing is not an option, so you reach for an energy drink. Around 3 AM, you start feeling jittery and hungry, so you grab a slice of pizza to keep you going through the night. The final result shows that students with a sedentary lifestyle are prone to obesity, stress, and anxiety.

A sedentary lifestyle comes with a host of health issues for students

In a study of primary school students, scientists concluded that kids who were active for less than an hour a day were 49% more likely to be obese than their classmates. In contrast, kids who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week were 53% less likely to be overweight. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just make students fat. It takes a huge toll on their mental health, too, causing anxiety and depression. Students who reported sitting for at least 42 hours a week are 1.3 times more likely to feel stressed and suffer from mental disorders than those who exercised.

How to prevent a sedentary lifestyle from wrecking the health of students

Whether you are a parent, friend, or student who can identify with any of the above, don’t worry. There are steps that you can take to prevent a sedentary lifestyle from making you and your kids sick.

Exercise three to five times a week

Most colleges offer a free gym and outdoor fields for training. Pair up with an active friend and work out together. On the days when you don’t feel like training, use the time to walk around campus instead.

If you’re the parent of a younger student, sign them up for an extracurricular sport that involves aerobic movement such as basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, track and field, dance, gymnastics, swimming, or anything else that they would enjoy. As long as you keep the activity fun, it will be more of a treat and less of an exercise.

Schedule daily activity the way you schedule homework time

When you’re a student, being successful comes down to proper scheduling. You set an alarm to wake up, pencil in your classes, and allocate blocks to do homework. Make sure to squeeze in an hour a day for exercise and hold yourself accountable. Think of it as a deadline and be diligent because your health is on the line.

Limit online entertainment and video games to three hours a week

If you can’t live without gaming, at least make sure to minimize the time you spend doing it. Allocate three hours a week to play your favorite game or watch a show. Make sure that you don’t go over your limit, though. If you’re in college, ask an accountability buddy to remind you when time’s up.

If you’re a parent of a primary, middle, or high school student, change the password on your shared Netflix account and give your child a certain amount of screen time per week. The same goes for cable – you can put a parental lock on certain channels to restrict the guilty pleasure that keeps your child glued to the TV.

Spend more of your free time outside with friends and family

A sedentary lifestyle is largely lonely. Even if you’re gaming with your buddies, you’re not really connecting. To avoid the negative effects of inactivity, allocate time to spend with friends, classmates, and family, preferably outside.

If you’re in college, instead of inviting friends over to eat pizza and watch a marathon of Game of Thrones, go out for a tennis match. Have a picnic on the quad or go for a walk in the park. If you’ve got free time between classes, call a friend back home to catch up while you walk around.

Clean up your diet

A sedentary lifestyle coupled with a bad diet is detrimental to students. If you are a parent, make sure that your child eats the recommended serving of fruit, vegetables, and grains daily. Let cake and cookies be a weekly treat, not the norm.

If you are a high school or college student, pack your snacks smartly. Stock up on raw almonds and walnuts instead of peanut butter. Carry fruit such as apples, pears, and bananas in your backpack to snack on. Cut all sugary drinks, especially energy drinks like Red Bull and Gatorade, and opt for water and tea instead.

Make sleep a top priority

Sleep is not only one of the most underrated pleasures in life, but also a vital process needed for proper brain function. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in the age group of six to 12 years old need at least nine hours of sleep per night.

Those aged 13 to 18 need eight hours on average. To avoid frustration and a decreased attention span due to the lack of sleep, make sure to get a good night of rest. Enough sleep will make you a better student, too. Your attention will be undivided, you won’t be frustrated or tired, and you can focus better.