Sedentary lifestyle: what it is, risks, WHO recommendations

THE sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact an individual’s life, increasing the risk of developing, for example, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and some types of cancer. It is, therefore, a serious health problem that must be tackled. The adoption of physical activity is beneficial for all people, from children to the elderly.

The WHO recommends that children and adolescents perform at least an average of 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. For adults, the recommendation is at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

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Summary about sedentary lifestyle

  • A sedentary lifestyle can be defined as a daily behavior that is characterized by a large amount of time devoted to activities that do not promote significant energy expenditure when compared to the expenditure produced at rest levels or activities with low energy expenditure.

  • A person can practice physical activities and still be sedentary, because they do not practice physical activity on a regular basis or perform it insufficiently.

  • According to the WHO, the practice of physical activities is beneficial for different age groups.

  • For adults, it is recommended to perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

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What is sedentary?

A sedentary lifestyle can be defined as a daily behavior that is characterized by a large amount of time devoted to activities that do not promote energy expenditure significant when compared to expenditure produced at levels of rest or activities with low energy expenditure.

A sedentary behavior includes activities such as spending a lot of time watching television or playing video games, using a computer, spending long periods of time sitting, among other habits.

It is important to note that a sedentary lifestyle is not just about the lack of physical activity. Some people can practice physical activities, but spend large periods of the day with sedentary behaviors, do not perform physical activity regularly or insufficiently. The practice of activities by itself, therefore, is not synonymous that the person is not sedentary.

→ WHO recommendations on physical activity

The World Health Organization, in its guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior, recommends that all people engage in physical activity on a regular basis.

The recommendation is that adults spend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity during the week. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activities throughout the week.

The WHO still recommends that adults perform muscle strengthening activities of moderate intensity or greater. These activities should engage your major muscle groups and, for additional health benefits, should be done at least two days a week.

Adults with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and problems that compromise cognitive function should also engage in regular physical activity. The amount and appropriate activities for these people should be indicated by a health professional.

For children and adolescents aged between five and 17 years, the WHO recommendation is at least 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. An important point is to reduce the amount of recreational activities in front of screens.

In addition, it is essential to emphasize that physical activities should arouse pleasure and be fun for this audiencealways respecting the age and ability of each one. It is worth noting that children and adolescents with disabilities should also be encouraged to perform physical activities. A professional will be able to indicate the most appropriate activities for each case.

For the elderly, the recommendation is at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. The combination of activities of different intensities can be done during the week.

are also recommended muscle strengthening activities, from functional balance and from strength training. Balance and strength are important to prevent falls and increase functional capacity, and at least three days a week are recommended.


  • Patients with chronic conditions

Patients living with chronic conditions such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and HIV infection can also engage in physical activity. These people, however, should talk to a health professional so that they are properly oriented regarding the best activities to be carried out.


  • Pregnant women and postpartum women

Contrary to popular belief, pregnant women and postpartum women can also perform physical activities. Nonetheless, It is important to talk to a doctor about the safety of activities. In case of cesarean section, activity should be resumed gradually, and the doctor should be consulted.

Physical activities improve the health of the individual as a whole.

It is important to note that even if you are not able to do physical activities as recommended by the WHO, performing an activity is always better than not performing at all. Small changes in habits should also be adopted on a daily basis, such as reducing time in front of the television and computer, increasing the number of daily steps, using stairs instead of elevators, taking regular breaks to move after long periods of rest, among other habits.

Know more: Atherosclerosis — a health problem that has a sedentary lifestyle as one of its risk factors

Risks of sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle is currently considered a pit question public healthsince it is related to the development of several chronic diseases. It is considered a risk factor for problems such as:

In addition, physical inactivity is related to the development of obesityincreased risk of falls in the elderly, depression, anxiety, changes in mood and dyslipidemia (elevated blood lipid levels).

In children, physical inactivity is related to the large increase in juvenile obesity worldwide. In addition, children and adolescents who have sedentary behavior have impairment of sleep, cardiometabolic health and He does social behavior.

Benefits of physical activities and the relationship with a sedentary lifestyle

The practice of physical activities guarantees benefits in various fields of our life, even improving mental health. Here are some of the benefits of physical activity:

  • reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease;

  • reduced incidence of hypertension;

  • reduced incidence of type II diabetes;

  • reduction of symptoms of depression and anxiety;

  • improved sleep;

  • improved cognitive health;

  • prevention of disabilities resulting from aging.

By Vanessa Sardinha dos Santos
Biology teacher

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