· 28 September 2018

Sedentary lifestyle epidemic

Por cenie
Epidemia de sedentarismo - Investigación, Fundación General CSIC

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than half of adults do not perform the physical activity necessary to obtain benefits for their health. The sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity are becoming a large epidemic, also in the Spanish adult population. There are many factors that are favoring this situation, and have to do with a life model increasingly automated, dependent on motorized transport, long working hours, consumption habits linked to more contemplative leisure and, among other factors, the limitation of ideal spaces even for walks that do not encourage us to physically strive every day.

There is talk of an epidemic of fatigue. Physical inactivity and physical inactivity are associated with many diseases. A recent Spanish research has shown that people over 65 who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular causes. This research team of the Autonomous University of Madrid had already proven in previous projects that sedentary lifestyle is associated with cardiovascular risk factors also in children and adolescents, even with their academic performance. These investigations and many others that point in the same direction have been analyzed in a report by Fundación España Activa. And all insist that we must bring about a change in the lifestyles of all segments of the population.

Physical activity and sport

Not always when we talk about physical activity we talk about sports. With words from the World Health Organization, any physical movement produced by the skeletal muscles that suppose an energy consumption is considered physical activity. It includes sports, physical exercise, and also playing, walking, doing housework, gardening and dancing ... All these activities are part of work or leisure and are a benefit to health.

According to the WHO, 60 minutes a day of vigorous physical activity would be recommended for the youngest from 5 to 17 years old. Recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for people aged 18 to 64; and for people 65 and older, the recommendations are similar. They should combine moderate and vigorous activities at least two and a half hours a week, in periods of at least 10 minutes each, at least three days a week. And when they can not perform the recommended amount due to health problems, they must remain as active as their abilities and health status permit.


We know and warn that we are talking about a serious problem according to various national and European surveys such as the Eurobarometer on sports and physical activity. These highlight that one out of every three Spaniards declares to be "sitting or sitting most of the day" as a fundamental activity of the day, be it studying, working, etc .; three of every five Spaniards did not perform any moderate physical activity in the last seven days prior to the completion of that same survey. These figures have not stopped growing in recent years, and they are expected to continue to do so.

Sedentary behavior is an independent risk of physical inactivity for many chronic diseases. Therefore, a person can be physically active when they meet the WHO minimum recommendations, but will remain considered sedentary if they spend a large part of the day in a sitting position. And in this sense, Spain leads the European Union as a percentage of the population that spends a lot of time sitting on a normal day. This, together with our little physical activity, poses a worrisome panorama.

Sedentary according to ages

The young students, from 16 to 24 years old, are the most sedentary. Which should make us reflect on the lifestyle that our young people have. Then the percentage drops to go back up between 65 and 74 years. In terms of gender, women are less sedentary than men although they practice less physical activity. However, it must be borne in mind that in the case of physical inactivity, this risk increases with age, due to the fact that she is a woman and because she belongs to a low social class. But their incorporation into jobs in which sitting for most of the day makes them equal men.

What to do

The report Fundación España Activa makes it very clear. Different analyzes have shown that the promotion of physical activity represents a cost saving for the health sector and that it is also a very economical action in comparison with the health expenditure produced as a result of physical inactivity.

Spaniards are already convinced of how positive it is for our health to maintain a physically active lifestyle, but a key aspect is to increase the chances of us being physically active. And this has to do with providing cities with sports facilities and free spaces (parks, gardens, pedestrian areas) accessible. So in addition to promoting an urban design that invites us to be physically active, it will also be good to promote the practice of physical activity in the workplace, the study center and the home. And it will be necessary to promote the recreational and enjoyment character that physical activity supposes; and to achieve this, doing it in company can be fundamental.

Source: Envejecimiento En Red

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal