• Daniel Braun

Podcast Notes: Sedentary Lifestyle

Haven't listened to this episode yet? Click here to open the episode in anchor, or click here to get to the podcast channel on Spotify.

In this episode, I feature a good friend, gym buddy, and one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met, Jonathan Harned. Jon is about to graduate from LVC with his DPT. He holds many advanced training certifications already, including pBFR, and is heading to Johns Hopkins Hospital for a sports PT residency after graduation. And did I mention - one of his clinical rotations was with the Clevland Indians (yes, the MLB team). For more about Jon, check out his Instagram @jharned_14.

Today, we discussed the consequences of excessive sedentary time. Sedentary time refers to extended periods of time without movement or activity. With the current COVID-19 situation set to continue for the next few weeks at the minimum, I’ve heard from many people who feel they’re falling behind on their exercise, doing less than they normally do.

In this episode, we reviewed:

  • The sedentary lifestyle trap

  • Why sedentary time is bad

  • How to break up sedentary time, and prevent the “downward spiral”

And more!

The Sedentary Lifestyle Trap

  • First, what is physical inactivity? Non-achievement of PA guidelines


  • How often do we turn to sedentary activities for comfort?

  • Mike Matthews’ The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation: Avg American spends 5 HOURS PER DAY watching TV.

  • Sedentary time feels good. So many people find watching tv/movies, playing video games, etc. to be relaxing

  • Changes in sedentary behavior predicted changes in mental wellbeing in a sample of younger healthy adults.” “(...) decreasing daily sedentary time by 60 min may prevent or significantly attenuate the negative effects of sedentary time on mental wellbeing”


  • Being sedentary may seem enticing: doing nothing is great right? Again, as we alluded to above, sedentary behavior causes negative effects on mental wellbeing. What other negative effects does sedentary time have?

Why Sedentary time is bad

  • ACSM Reference: Riebe et al. 2018: ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing & Prescription (Chapter 2)

  • How does sedentary time impact the general population?

  • We can all agree that an individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their health, wellness, and health related outcomes. According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950 and now account for 43% of all US jobs (Gremaud et al. 2018). This is very alarming as the obesity rate in the United States is skyrocketing with 42.4% of the population falling into this category in the last CDC report between 2017-2018. With that being said, research shows that poor health outcomes such as heart disease Type II Diabetes, and cancer have been linked to increased sitting times, specifically more than 10 hours a day (Pandey et al. 2016). Research also shows that physical activity can help combat the negative side effects of a sedentary lifestyle and help aid in the primary and secondary prevention of such chronic diseases (Lavie et al. 2019). We all know that physical activity is good for the body providing benefits to countless systems that all work together to promote a homeostatic environment in which we can thrive in, but it also helps improve emotional and mental health as well. So get up and move, take walks, stretch. I’m not saying you have to go to the gym 7 days a week for 2 hours, but it is proven that exercise is good, while sedentary behavior is not.

  • What have you seen and learned in three years of graduate school about the consequences of sedentary time?

  • To be very straight to the point, MOVE. I mean we could talk about this for hours. Sedentary behavior affects every single system within your body from the musculoskeletal system causing muscle atrophy and breakdown to the neuromuscular system and decreased firing rates of nerves leading to disrupted signals throughout the body. Increased sedentary behavior can lead to decreased bone mineral density and strength placing one at risk for pathological fractures. It affects the immune system causing delayed wound healing, decreased immune responses to antigens. The lymphatic system is affected with possible for increased venous pooling and disruption in lymphatic flow. Even the integumentary system is affected with prolonged sitting/bed rest leading to potential ulcers from the ischemic effects of weight bearing. Now I just named a few things, as there are many many more negative effects from sedentary behavior, but you get my point. We as Physical Therapists are the experts of the musculoskeletal system and have direct contact with our patients almost on a daily basis so it is vital for us to know the negative things that come along with sedentary behavior to advocate for our patients and help promote improved lifestyles and thus shift towards a primary prevention model in all of healthcare.

  • Is sedentary time always bad for everyone? Athletes, general population, individuals with chronic diseases? Is there a time when it’s good?

  • Overall, yes sedentary behavior is bad, however, it depends on the individual and the severity of the behavior. For example, for all the athletes out there who grind during the week between practices, competitions, lifts, meetings, and what have you, a typical “Sunday Funday” vegging on the couch binge watching Netflix and eating maybe not so healthy food won’t affect them too much. They’ll be back in the office Monday busting their tail. I mean when it comes to weight lifting, the heavenly “cheat meal”, yes I said “cheat meal” not “cheat day” is a major topic of discussion and this correlates with our athletes who are engaging in vigorous volumes of exercise. For weightlifters and bodybuilders who follow a strict diet throughout the week a “cheat meal” is pushed. Now there is no real scientific research on the cheating dieting strategy, but it is proposed that “cheat meals” may account for metabolic changes in weight loss. For example, Leptin is a hormone that is responsible for suppressing our feelings of hunger and cravings. Some research indicates that significant weight loss may cause a decrease in Leptin. A component to the weight loss theory is that if you have lower levels of circulating Leptin, then you will be more likely to overeat because you don’t feel full and satisfied leading to potential rebound weight gain. This is where these so-called “cheat meals” come in as they may help produce more Leptin temporarily preventing this desire for overeating (Hill 2018). SO getting back to the point, occasionally sedentary behaviors for athletes won’t be too detrimental due to their rigorous schedules and it also may help in recovery. Now for those with chronic diseases, comorbidities, and just the general population, sedentary behavior should be limited as it has negative effects on one’s health. It can also further increase the negative outcomes when combined with such diseases making matters even worse.


Pandey A, Salahuddin U, Garg S, et al. Continuous Dose-Response Association Between Sedentary Time and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA Cardiology. 2016;1(5):575. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2016.1567.

Gremaud AL, Carr LJ, Simmering JE, et al. Gamifying Accelerometer Use Increases Physical Activity Levels of Sedentary Office Workers. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018;7(13). doi:10.1161/jaha.117.007735

Lavie CJ, Ozemek C, Carbone S, Katzmarzyk PT, Blair SN. Sedentary Behavior, Exercise, and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation Research. 2019;124(5):799-815. doi:10.1161/circresaha.118.312669

Breaking up sedentary time

  • Get up and MOVE! Fitness watches with hourly reminders to get up and move. “Get your steps in”

  • “Grease the groove” with exercises and stretching throughout the day. Example: the 5x5 grid (or larger)

  • Stand don’t sit

  • Take stuff “on the go” - we often sit for work done on laptops and computers. Why can’t we take this on the go? We carry our phones that are capable of most of the same things as our laptop - why not go for a walk and use a talk to text app to write a rough draft of a paper? Why not have our emails read to us while we walk? Take your studying on the go with notes on your phone?

Information in this post is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Consult your primary care provider prior to making any changes in your diet or lifestyle habits as discussed.

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