Sedentary behavior: Surprising Health Risks

Health Risks of sedentary behaviour

Sedentary behaviour can have both physical and mental repercussions on the health of your employees.

Sometimes the symptoms are so insidious that people don’t even notice them until it’s too late. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to many preventable chronic and life-threatening disease leading to problems like absenteeism, lost productivity, and depression.

It’s important for employers to understand and acknowledge the risks of sedentary behaviour in the workplace, to be able to encourage and support employees to make adjustments that can improve their health and quality of life, both now and in the long run. 

sedentary behaviour

Sedentary behavior can cause the following conditions:

Weight gain

The more sedentary a person is, the less calories they burn. To reduce the risk of heart disease, adults should engage in at least 2.5 hours of physical activity every week – but in general, only one in five adults get the amount of exercise they should. A lack of movement often leads to obesity, an excessive amount of body fat, and weight gain. 

Disorders of the veins

Lack of movement causes blood flow to slow down, leading to vein problems. Vascular clots can form in veins, and if a blood clot travels to the lungs, it can be life-threatening. The best way to prevent vein-related problems is to stay physically active.

Cardiovascular disease

A lack of physical activity is one of the main causes of heart diseases like cardiomyopathy, where the heart pumps blood differently, or coronary artery disease, when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is reduced. 

High cholesterol

Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, from the bloodstream. But inactivity can cause high cholesterol, where your body produces too much LDL and not enough HDL, leading to hardened arteries, vascular issues, and other health problems.


If blood is pumped too strongly through the body, it makes the heart work harder. In addition to weakening blood vessels, too much work on the heart can lead to heart failure. Active lifestyles can help reduce blood pressure, whereas sedentary lifestyles heighten the risk of hypertension.


There is a link between sedentary behavior and many types of cancer. Research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that increasing physical activity levels and cutting back on sedentary behavior can significantly reduce cancer risk.

Diabetic syndrome

Blood sugar levels and metabolism are regulated by insulin, which allows the body to use sugar for energy. Sitting for long periods of time can cause changes to the body, which may lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Usually diagnosed in older adults, type 2 diabetes can also be found in children. While diabetes cannot be cured, a healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss can help keep long term management. 

How to prevent sedentary behavior in the workplace?

Every little change you can make to your workers’ everyday life – at home and at work – will make a difference. Moving differently, moving more, and even doing daily work tasks on the go can help employees increase their movement output.

A trend that many companies have found success with is ‘walk-n-talk’ meetings that take place during on-the-clock hours and involve calling in instead of using cameras. Other creative incentives include healthy organised lunches, daily breaks to engage in 30 minutes of meditation or yoga and treating the team to a fitness tracker, so they can become more mindful of their physical activity during the day.

By implementing small initiatives, employers can increase motivation, improve company morale, enhance productivity, gain loyalty and, most importantly, improve fitness and mental health in the workplace.

Does your company have a fitness incentive program to get workers moving?

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