Physical activity is increasingly disappearing from many people’s work and leisure time – however, hardly anybody recognizes how dangerous a lack of movement is for your health. In this article, we will explain the causes and possible consequences of inactivity. You will also find out why it’s so important to stay active and how you can get moving.
Why are we less and less active?
As part of a globally conducted study, the World Health Organization (WHO) found out that inactivity is connected to a deep-seated change of lifestyle for many people: not only the workday but also leisure time is increasingly characterized by less activity.
As a result of digitization and automation, the number of workers carrying out manual labor has decreased while the need for office jobs is increasing. Consequently, more and more people have sedentary occupations. With more people working from home, even trips to the printer or canteen fall by the wayside for many.
The way we spend our leisure time is also affected by digitization: the triumphant advance of television and increasing popularity of Netflix etc. have a direct connection to inactivity during leisure, making the couch a popular place to spend free time. Add to that the growing popularity of the internet and social media that also promote physical inactivity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends cutting down time spent sitting, and instead, carrying out activities of light to moderate intensity for at least 150-300 minutes every week. Otherwise, various risks to health and well-being may be caused, affecting all aspects of our lives.
Health implications of inactivity
The effects of inactivity on our health are severe and can manifest in different ways. Those affected may be prone to, for example:
- Obesity: in combination with excessive eating, in particular, lack of movement often results in being pathologically overweight (obese). Going for a walk after a meal, for example, or regular training to get your digestion going and keep your calorie intake balanced can fight this.
- Diabetes mellitus type 2: this condition is also known as “adult-onset diabetes” and results in a chronic increase in the blood sugar level, which now also occurs more frequently in younger patients. Exercise and movement increase muscle activity which is directly associated with a healthy insulin level.
- Cardiovascular diseases: those who are not very active increase their risk of suffering from clogged blood vessels. This may result in high blood pressure, heart attacks, or stroke.
- Reduced personal performance: it often manifests as fatigue and lethargy. An impaired circulation based on a lack of movement can therefore result in restricted brain activity which can be reflected in reduced concentration and creativity.
- Psychological consequences: being upset and depressed is also connected to a lack of physical activity. Sports are an important outlet to relieve stress and tension. During endurance sports, in particular, stress-reducing hormones are released that result in relaxation and a good mood after exercise.
- Being prone to infections:adrenaline is released during physical activity. This hormone activates stimuli that have a training effect on the immune defense. This lowers the risk of suffering from common infectious diseases and cancer.
- Restrictions of the locomotor system: muscles weakened by a lack of use often result in pain in the back, hip, or knee.
- Osteoarthritis: painful joints caused by fatigue or strain as well as after long periods of sitting or lying down are symptoms of commonly occurring cartilage wear. This is how osteoarthritis can develop as a direct consequence of inactivity.
Osteoarthritis: a widespread condition
Osteoarthritis is the most frequently occurring joint condition. Symptoms include painful joints and increasingly limited mobility. Osteoarthritis is detected in the finger, knee, and hip joints particularly often because those are subjected to most strain during everyday activities. However, it can develop in any joint.
Osteoarthritis is a very widespread condition: with increasing age, suffering from osteoarthritis becomes more and more likely. From the age of 65, around half of all women and about a third of men are affected in Germany. Excessive strain and inappropriate mechanical stress of the joints can also trigger and advance the development of osteoarthritis. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is expecting the condition to become even more common.
Why exercise is essential in cases of osteoarthritis
In cases of osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joint wears excessively. This results in pain, restriction of movement and, in the worst case, stiffening.
The cartilage acts as a shock absorber for the bones and ensures that the joint glides smoothly. But it has to remain elastic and supple to fulfill this function optimally. This requires synovial fluid or “joint lubricant”, which nourishes the cartilage with all the essential nutrients and lubricants to keep it preserved. However, the fluid only enters the cartilage tissue during movement because it needs a combination of tension and relief. This is the only way to work essential nutrients into the cartilage and get rid of waste products. The consequence: without enough physical activity, the cartilage is not supplied with sufficient joint lubricant. As a result, the cartilage becomes porous and rough, suffers continuous wear and is no longer able to fulfill its protective function.
Get active in cases of osteoarthritis
Even though osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, there are ways of decelerating joint wear. We have compiled some actions you can take to combat osteoarthritis.
- If you have no signs of osteoarthritis yet, ensure you are more active in your everyday life because the motto is: fight inactivity and banish it from everyday life. This not only lowers your osteoarthritis risk but also actively ensures a healthy mind and body. The long list of possible consequences of too little movement shows how important it is to be active.
Do you notice joint pain or pain when you get going in the morning? In order to counteract osteoarthritis, early diagnosis is essential: visit your physician for an examination! Our osteoarthritis risk test will provide you with an initial assessment but is no substitute for a medical consultation and definitive diagnosis.
- If you have already been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it will be particularly important for you to combat lack of movement and be active regularly. Find out more about physiotherapy and sports that are gentle on your joints. Our supports and orthoses provide ideal help.
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