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Diseases Caused by Lack of Physical Exercise

Physical activity positively impacts the human body and mind. It plays a vital role in improving your overall health. Individuals who do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity can gain health benefits. Just as consistent physical activity has positive health effects, physical inactivity has a detrimental effect on health. It is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other diseases [1]. Other potential long-term effects may include type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, reproductive diseases, breast and colon cancer, and a shortening of your life expectancy [2]. Physically active people are less likely to develop CVD than those who are inactive. As physical inactivity progresses, individuals increase their risk for mortality. It is shown that physically inactive people are 20-30% times more likely to be at risk for death compared to active individuals [3]. Therefore, engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity two to three times a week is sufficient.

Influential factors of physical inactivity have many causes, including environmental factors. For instance, this consists of sedentary lifestyles, air pollution, traffic congestion, shortage of parks, and lack of leisure facilities [4]. Television viewing, video viewing, and cell phone usage are positively correlated with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle [4]. Consequently, these factors have a major effect on the overall health of a population. As many people worldwide engage in these lifestyles, the prevalence of non-communicable diseases is on the rise. There has been a correlation between physical inactivity affecting your psychological health. It was concluded that it can cause depression. This is because sedentary behaviors can block direct communication and decrease social interaction with others. It is primarily important for individuals to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

Not only do you increase your risk for long-term effects on the body, but short-term effects are included as well. Individuals who lead an inactive lifestyle put themselves at more risk for short-term effects such as anxiety, weight gain, a weakened immune system, hormonal imbalance, poor blood circulation, and decreased skeletal muscle mass [4]. More recent data has concluded that one-third of worldwide deaths are due to CVD, which is expected to increase [5].

According to a systematic review by The National Library of Medicine, it has been concluded that replacing sedentary time with physical activity can help improve cognitive function [4]. Physical activity not only improves your cognitive function, but it also promotes better sleep. Quite frankly, increasing physical activity can offset the adverse impacts of sedentary behavior. For this reason, it is highly important to reduce sedentary time as much as possible. It was concluded that 30 minutes of physical activity had shown a positive change [4].

Despite the potential serious diseases associated with physical inactivity, there are ways to prevent it, although, it takes a great amount of effort to make a change for yourself. It is quite easy to be frustrated and give up, but it is certainly not impossible to get back up and keep trying. Practice leads to improvement, which will eventually show in your health. Listed below are recommendations that one can incorporate into their daily life to effectively contribute to increasing physical activity:

  • Set goals: Start slow and progress gradually. Get a journal and write down your weekly sessions. Aim to incorporate training exercises to work out the whole body (Ex. Walking 30 minutes for at least five days a week).

  • Make it fun: Take a weekend hike with friends, partners, or family. Walk your pet. Attend an aerobics or dance class. Find an activity that you love, so you get excited whenever you exercise.

  • Make it part of your daily routine: Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. During your lunch break, do squats, lungs, or sit-ups. A big part of staying motivated comes from being consistent. Create a healthy habit with exercises of your choice.

  • Be flexible: Go easy on yourself if you need a break. Pace yourself. Don't give up. Make sure to keep yourself on track.

  • Reward yourself: After each workout session, take a few minutes to savor the good feeling that exercise gives you. When you reach a higher goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes, or new workout gear, enjoy a massage or hit the beach to relax.

  • Get support: Bring a friend, partner, or family member to your workout sessions. They can push you to reach new goals and bring you a sense of comfort. Motivation is key.

Things to Remember:

  • Keep moving and sit less, even if that means taking laps around the rooms in your house, or playing fetch with your dog.

  • Physical inactivity can double your risk for future health diseases.

  • An inactive lifestyle leads to burning fewer calories and increasing weight.

  • Try not to be overwhelmed. If you are stressed, squeeze in at least a 15-minute to 30-minute exercise.

  • Start slow and exercise gradually.

  • Less physical activity can cause muscle loss and decrease endurance. Your bones will be weaker and have poorer blood circulation.

  • Physical activity improves your cognitive function and positively improves your health.

  • Make sure while you’re focusing on your physical health to, also, keep tabs on your mental and emotional health.


1. Booth, F. W., Roberts, C. K., & Laye, M. J. (2012). Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Comprehensive Physiology, 2(2), 1143–1211.

2. Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet (London, England), 380(9838), 219–229.

3. Haileamlak A. (2019). Physical Inactivity: The Major Risk Factor for Non-Communicable Diseases. Ethiopian journal of health sciences, 29(1), 810.

4. Park, J. H., Moon, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kong, M. H., & Oh, Y. H. (2020). Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean journal of family medicine, 41(6), 365–373.

5. González, K., Fuentes, J., & Márquez, J. L. (2017). Physical Inactivity, Sedentary Behavior and Chronic Diseases. Korean journal of family medicine, 38(3), 111-115.



Author: Melissa Del Rio

Editors: Lauryn Agron and Terin Buckley

Health scientist: Melissa Del Rio

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