Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
August 24, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Did you know that lack of exercise can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health?

In fact, research has shown that people who are physically inactive are at a higher risk for developing cognitive issues, such as brain fog.

This is because having little to no exercise can cause physical inactivity, which in turn leads to a number of health problems.

In this beginner’s guide, we will discuss the effects of sedentary behaviors on the mind and body and provide tips on how to get more physically active. We hope that this information will encourage you to make healthy changes in your life.

Let’s get started.

What is exercise, exactly?

Exercise is any physical activity that gets your body moving and your heart rate up.

There are many different types of exercise, but some examples include:

  • walking,
  • running,
  • biking,
  • hiking,
  • swimming,
  • jumping ropes,
  • and lifting weights.

Exercise also comes in many different forms, such as:

  • cardiovascular exercise,
  • strength training,
  • flexibility training,
  • and balance training.

Benefits of Exercising

There are many benefits of exercising, both for your physical and mental health.

Some of the benefits of exercise include:

  • improved brain function,
  • increased energy levels,
  • better sleep quality,
  • reduced stress levels,
  • improved mood,
  • increased strength and stamina,
  • improved joint and bone health,
  • and more.

How does lack of exercise affect health?

Now that we know the many benefits of exercise, let’s take a look at how having little to no exercise can negatively affect your health.

As we mentioned before, sedentary behaviors can lead to physical inactivity. And physical inactivity has been linked to a number of physical and cognitive health problems.

Brain Health

One of the most significant impacts of a sedentary lifestyle is on brain health.

Research has shown that having little to no exercise can lead to a decrease in brain volume and an increase in age-related brain diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other cognitive issues that are often brought about by having no exercise include:

Brain Fog

Brain fog or mental fog is a term used to describe the feeling of confusion and lack of focus. It can make it difficult for you to think clearly, pay attention, and remember things.

If you’re experiencing brain fog, lack of exercise may be to blame. This is because when you’re inactive, your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to function properly.

And when your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, it can lead to a lack of focus, mental fatigue, and brain fog.

Memory Problems

Studies show that physical inactivity can lead to memory issues.

In one study, sedentary adults aged 55 and over were asked to participate in a six-month exercise program. The results showed that the participants who exercised had improved memory and brain function compared to those who didn’t exercise.

Another study found that sedentary behaviors can lead to a decline in hippocampal volume, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory.

So, if you’re having trouble remembering things, lack of exercise may be the culprit.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are two other common mental health issues that can be brought on by an inactive lifestyle.

The Harvard Medical School reveals that exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for both depression and anxiety. In fact, one study found that regular exercise was just as effective as medication for treating clinical depression.

Another study showed that people who participated in regular physical activity had a lower risk of developing anxiety disorders.

So, if you’re feeling down or anxious, an inactive lifestyle may be to blame. And starting a physical activity can help to improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

In addition, lack of exercise has been linked to cognitive decline and impaired executive function.

Executive function is a set of cognitive skills that help us plan, organize, and complete tasks.

Some examples of executive function skills include:

  • attention,
  • inhibition,
  • working memory,
  • cognitive flexibility, and
  • planning and organization.

So, if you are not getting enough exercise, you may find it more difficult to focus, remember things, and stay organized.

Physical Health

In addition to affecting brain health, an inactive lifestyle can also lead to a number of problems in your physical state.

For example, having little to no exercise has been linked to:

Obesity

Being obese or overweight is one of the most common health problems associated with physical inactivity.

In fact, sedentary behaviors are seen to be responsible for most cases of too much weight gain or obesity.

If you’re obese, you’re at an increased risk of developing a number of health problems, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

So, if you’re carrying around extra weight, a sedentary lifestyle may be to blame.

Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease is another health problem that can be brought on by chronic physical inactivity.

This is because when you’re inactive, your heart isn’t getting the exercise it needs to stay healthy.

As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary heart disease.

Remember that starting a physical activity is not only for fun, but it’s also crucial for maintaining a healthy heart.

Type II Diabetes

Type II diabetes is another health problem that can be caused by an inactive lifestyle.

This is because when you’re inactive, your body isn’t able to use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

If your body can’t use insulin properly, it can lead to high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can damage your blood vessels and lead to type 2 diabetes.

So, if you’re inactive and have high blood sugar levels, you may be at risk for developing type II diabetes.

Digestive Tract Diseases

Sedentary behaviors can also lead to a number of digestive tract diseases.

For example, chronic physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD is a condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

In addition, having no exercise at all has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

So, if you’re inactive and have digestive problems, having little to no exercise may be to blame.

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another health problem that can be caused by sedentary behaviors.

When you’re physically inactive, your heart isn’t getting the exercise it needs to stay healthy. As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing hypertension.

In addition, a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of stroke.

So, if you have high blood pressure, it’s important to start a physical activity that will help keep you moving.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.

It’s often seen as a “silent disease” because it doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages.

However, having no exercise is a risk factor for developing osteoporosis. This is because when you’re inactive, your bones aren’t getting the exercise they need to stay strong.

As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis as you age.

So, if you want to keep your bones healthy and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, it’s important to have a physical activity that will push you to keep moving.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes the joints to become inflamed.

It’s a common condition that often affects people as they age. However, sedentary behaviors can also lead to osteoarthritis.

This is because when you’re inactive, your joints aren’t getting the exercise they need to stay healthy. As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.

To have strong joints and avoid osteoarthritis, you must keep your body active through exercise or any physical activity that you enjoy.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition that causes the kidneys to become damaged.

If you have CKD, it means that your kidneys are not able to filter waste from your blood properly.

Sedentary behaviors are a risk factor for developing CKD. This is because when you’re inactive, your kidneys are not getting the blood flow they need to stay healthy.

As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing CKD.

If you want to keep your kidneys in good working order, it’s critical to exercise and stay active.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes the ovaries to become enlarged.

It’s a common condition that often affects women of childbearing age. However, physical inactivity can also lead to PCOS.

This is because when you’re inactive, your body isn’t able to use insulin properly. As a result, you’re at an increased risk of developing PCOS.

If you want to reduce your PCOS risk, going for a walk or engaging in other forms of exercise is a must.

Cancer

Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the body grow out of control.

There are many different types of cancer, but lack of exercise has been linked to an increased risk of developing some types.

For example, chronic physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer and colon cancer.

To reduce your chances of getting cancer, it’s essential to be physically active and move around often.

Other Adverse Effects of Physical Inactivity

Aside from the health problems mentioned above, having little to no exercise can also lead to:

Loss of functional capacities

Functional capacities are the abilities of your body to perform physical tasks.

For example, lifting heavy objects, going up and down stairs, or running.

As you age, it’s normal to lose some functional capacities. However, being physically inactive can speed up the process.

This is because your muscles and bones get weaker when you’re not active. As a result, you lose functional capacities more quickly.

Shorter lifespan

Studies show that people who have little to no exercise have a shorter lifespan than those who are physically active.

This is because a sedentary lifestyle leads to all of the health problems mentioned above. And these health problems can shorten your life expectancy and even lead to premature death.

So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, it’s important to exercise regularly and live an active lifestyle.

Speeds up secondary aging

Secondary aging is the aging of your body that’s not due to the natural aging process.

For example, wrinkles and gray hair are natural signs of aging. But things like lack of muscle mass and poor bone health are secondary aging effects.

And these effects can be accelerated by physical inactivity. So, if you want to keep your body looking young and healthy, you need to exercise.

How much exercise do I need every day?

Now that you know the adverse effects of sedentary behaviors, you might be wondering how much exercise you need to stay healthy.

The good news is that you don’t have to exercise for hours every day to reap the benefits.

Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to improve your health.

So, if you want to keep your mind and body healthy, make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily by doing physical activities that you enjoy.

Health-Enhancing Physical Activities

There are many different types of physical activities that you can do to improve your health.

Some examples include:

  • brisk walking,
  • jumping ropes,
  • dancing,
  • playing sports,
  • lifting weights,
  • climbing,
  • and yoga.

It’s essential to choose a physical activity that you enjoy so that you’ll be more likely to stick with it in the long run.

If you don’t have time to go to the gym or go for a run, there are other ways to be active.

You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car further away from your destination, or do household chores.

Any physical activity that gets you moving is good for your health.

How about brain exercises?

In addition to physical activity, it’s also important to do brain-training exercises.

Brain exercises are activities that help keep your mind sharp and can reduce your risk of developing cognitive problems, such as memory loss and dementia.

Some excellent examples of brain-training exercises include:

  • Sudoku,
  • Crossword puzzles,
  • Jigsaw puzzles,
  • Building models,
  • Playing online brain games,
  • and learning a new language or a new skill.

How to Start an Active Lifestyle

If you’re not used to being active, starting slowly and gradually increasing your physical activity level is essential.

You can begin by doing light activities, such as walking or gentle stretching. Then, you can gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.

It’s also important to listen to your body and rest when necessary.

If you have any health problems or injuries, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Wrapping Up

Lack of exercise can have severe consequences for your mind and body. It can lead to cognitive problems, such as brain fog, and shorten your lifespan by risking the development of cancers, such as colon and breast cancer.

But you don’t have to exercise for hours every day to stay healthy. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily is enough to improve your health.

So, if you want to keep your mind and body healthy, make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily by doing physical activities that you enjoy. In addition to physical activity, it’s also important to do brain-training exercises.

If you’re not used to being active, start slowly and gradually increase your physical activity level. And make sure to listen to your body and rest when you need to.

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with others who might also benefit from this information.

If you want to learn more about clearing brain fog and improving your overall brain health, we have plenty of resources in our blog, and feel free to join the talks in our online community.

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