Are you leading a sedentary lifestyle?
According to Merriam-Webster, a sedentary lifestyle is one which requires much sitting or no physical activity.1 However, from a medical perspective, a sedentary lifestyle is defined as doing anything less strenuous than walking briskly for 25-30 minutes each day.2
Sitting in a car, sitting in a chair, and lying or sitting in a couch or bed are inarguably sedentary activities, however many people would cringe from describing themselves as sedentary because in fact they do get up from their bed, take a shower, walk down the stairs, walk to their car, walk from their car to their desk, go shopping and do other such activities in their daily life.
The problem is that in clinical studies describing the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, the latter activities don't count as physical activity. In order to be considered physically active, one must exert 4 METS (metabolic equivalents of energy) or more daily for 25-30 minutes. Achieving at least 4 METS requires doing any activity equal to or more strenuous than brisk walking.2
The real problem here is that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of having a poor quality of life, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, obesity, and death.
Metabolic syndrome is the combination of high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and abdominal obesity all in one person, and puts that person at an even greater risk of heart attack. Approximately 1 out of 4 people in the world have metabolic syndrome, and if you are one of these people then you have 5X the chance of developing diabetes and 3X the chance of having a heart attack than a person without metabolic syndrome.
To qualify for the new International Diabetes Federation (IDF) definition of metabolic syndrome, a person must have abdominal obesity and 2 of the following problems: high triglycerides, low HDL, high fasting blood sugar or raised blood pressure.3
Abdominal obesity = waist circumference ≥ 31.5 inches in women, and ≥ 35 inches in men
+ 2 of the following:
High triglycerides = ≥ 150mg/dL
Low HDL = ≤ 40mg/dL in men, and ≤ 50mg/dL in women
High fasting blood sugar = ≥ 100mg/dL, or previously diagnosed diabetes
High blood pressure = systolic BP ≥ 130 or diastolic BP ≥ 85 mm Hg
(If you are on a specific treatment for any of the above, it counts the same.)
If this is more than you ever wanted to know about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, start at least briskly walking for 25-30 minutes most days of the week, and go see your doctor. If you have one characteristic of metabolic syndrome, you may have more, and there are other more specialized tests related to metabolic syndrome that you may want performed.
Sorry I have to say this, but do not start a physical activity program without first consulting your doctor.