Over the past decades, sedentary jobs have increased many folds which results in prolonged sitting for most of us. However, sedentary lifestyle is associated with several health risks that can affect your health in various ways.
An advisory from American Heart Association mentions that sedentary lifestyle is a potential risk factor for diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and its precursors like hypertension or obesity.1 While this can have an impact on your joints, muscles, weight, and overall health, a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of heart disease by raising your risk of hypertension.
Let us understand how does sedentary lifestyle cause hypertension.
How Does Sedentary Lifestyle Cause Hypertension?
It is estimated that on average adults spend sedentary behavior for about six to eight hours a day and the duration may be more in older adults.1 It is important to understand the dangers of prolonged sitting. Hypertension, obesity, and metabolic disorders are the precursors of heart disorders and are considered to be interrelated. To protect your heart, you need to understand how sedentary lifestyle causes hypertension and what are the ways to prevent it.
Studies have shown that there is a positive association between sedentary lifestyle and the incidence of hypertension. Experts believe that regular, moderate exercise can significantly lower resting blood pressure in normal and hypertensive people. Lesser physical activity is associated with a higher risk of hypertension; hence the prevention and management of high blood pressure includes increasing physical activity.2
A 2007 study states that interactive sedentary behaviors can be an independent risk factor for hypertension. On the contrary, non-interactive sedentary behavior like sleeping or television viewing did not show any significant association with incident hypertension.2
Here is how sedentary lifestyle causes hypertension:
Reduced Metabolism – Sedentary behaviors can cause weight gain and reduce the rate of metabolism. This not only raises the risk of obesity but also type 2 diabetes and both can be contributing factors to increased risk of hypertension. Disturbed metabolism can lead to the deposition of fat in the body which can raise the risk of high blood pressure.
Increased Heart Rate – Studies have shown that regular exercises like endurance training and yoga can cause a reduction in resting heart rate.3 Low levels of physical activity can raise the heart rate and the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood into circulation. This exerts a stronger force on the walls of the arteries, which is when the blood pressure raises. While there are other factors like diet with excess intake of salt, smoking, presence of other conditions like diabetes that can influence the prevalence of high blood pressure, lack of adequate physical activity can affect it in many ways. Thus, including regular exercise or physical activity can help reduce heart rate and improve life expectancy by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
Increased Risk Of Atherosclerosis – One of the ways how sedentary lifestyle cause hypertension is by the formation of plaques in the arteries. Physical inactivity combined with poor diet can raise the risk of deposition of plaques in the arteries. This can result in atherosclerosis, in which the narrowing of blood vessels occurs, leading to a rise in blood pressure. Studies have shown that lifestyle modification that includes performing regular exercises and being physically active can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart diseases. It can help to reduce the risk factors like hypertension, lipid, and cholesterol levels.4
What To Do?
There are several ways in which sedentary lifestyle can cause hypertension and raise the risk of heart disorders. As it is clear that a sedentary lifestyle raises the risk of hypertension the best way to prevent it is to avoid sedentary behavior. It is more important to pay attention to the number of hours spent sitting and not just including exercises in your routine. High levels of physical activity can help to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. However, around ten hours of sitting even for those who perform regular exercises can be harmful. Studies have shown that if you are sitting for more than 10 hours a day your cardiovascular risk increases. Thus, prolonged sitting time is more important than just exercising for an hour every day. So, staying active throughout the day can help reduce your sitting time and reduce your risk of hypertension and cardiovascular risk.5
However, you can indeed perform exercises only for a specific period during the day. It is more important to spend the entire day being active. But that cannot be achieved by replacing sitting with exercising. The best way to tackle this issue is to avoid continuous, prolonged sitting. After every twenty minutes of sitting work, you can stand for eight minutes and walk for two minutes.5 Use a fitness tracker to keep a check on the number of steps you walk every day and try to keep increasing the daily step count gradually.
It is also noted that aerobic exercises play an important role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders. Aerobic exercises can help blood circulation to the heart, improve conditioning and oxygenation, help improve the metabolism and reduce insulin resistance. Thus, getting involved in aerobic exercises regularly can help in lowering the risk of hypertension. But the most important point is to stay active throughout the day, take breaks from your sitting tasks and stand or move around for some time. Just as sedentary lifestyle can cause hypertension, being physically active can reduce the risk of hypertension.