Lack of exercise - consequences, causes and symptoms

Lack of exercise - consequences, causes and symptoms

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Lack of exercise is a phenomenon of post-industrial societies. A few generations ago, people had to move unless they were one of the few privileged people to have the physical work done by others.

Today most of the work is done sitting, in front of the computer in the office. Many teenagers play with the smartphone instead of putting on their rubber boots and going into the forest, their parents sit in front of the computer after eight hours in the office and order pizza instead of buying fresh ingredients and cooking themselves.

Children have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in physical activity: congestion in cities, crowded blocks of flats and streets restrict the possibilities to let off steam. Televisions, computers, Facebook and what's app virtually replace the adventures in the outside world, instead of the clique, the kids meet in online communities.

Our ancestors would have admired the technical aids of today's society, but: If the muscles are underused in the long term, we speak of a lack of exercise. This has consequences, because we have to use all organs to keep them healthy.

Scientists from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University even found that people who sit more than three hours a day die about three years earlier.

Fragmented living space

It is cheap to assume that people who do not move enough can be lazy, according to the neoliberal mantra: Everyone is responsible for themselves. The freedom to act physically is restricted, especially in large cities.

Roads cut children's radius of action so that they can hardly avoid free spaces outside the home without danger. Parents fear for their children on their way to school, and often rightly so. If children get involved in their game, they run the real risk of being run over.

People in big cities can rarely afford large gardens. In the two-room apartment with a view of the parking lot of the Penny market, there are hardly any opportunities for physical activity.

There is less and less open space. Young people who make fires, camp wildly, build a raft or run around in the forest off the beaten track are almost considered criminals.

Fields sprayed with pesticides and covered with manure make even rural areas unattractive for children.

Psychological consequences

A lack of movement clogs the vessels, which means that the brain is less supplied with blood. Those affected suffer from poor concentration and learning disorders. If the performance drops with the lack of exercise, those affected are considered unsportsmanlike and no longer take part in the physical testing of their peers.

Their self-image is at risk, and this quickly leads to them becoming socially isolated. As a result, you may hide even more behind the Playstation, compensate for your frustration with fat and sugar-rich food and thus get into a vicious circle.

Lack of exercise paralyzes creativity. Because creativity is not a purely intellectual process. Creative people use materials from their surroundings and use them to create something new. Graphics programs cannot replace painting, carving or pottery. We learn by understanding things literally. Virtual realities cannot replace these things.

Moving too little restricts independence and prevents self-determination. If you are in full possession of your physical abilities, you can at least imagine how you can build a camp in the forest if your apartment burns down, or how it makes it through without having internet.

Curiosity and the joy of discovery have a lot to do with movement. When we hike around, we see something new, we only discover things on the doorstep when we walk out the front door. A lack of exercise, on the other hand, promotes the need for false security: if you only drag yourself from the sofa to bed, surprises will appear as a danger at some point. Life loses its charm, the terror of the everlasting takes the place of adventure.

Movement is fun, it is good for us to feel our body. When we let off steam, the body releases hormones, adrenaline and dopamine, endorphins, which release feelings of happiness.

Culture faster than evolution

Humans are runners by nature who hunt and gather. We move on two legs and spend much of our time on the planet roaming around, searching for honeycombs in hollow trees, digging roots out of the ground, stalking deer, dragging the prey into the camp to prepare, to tan skins, or to sew clothes.

When we became sedentary farmers, most of the lives of thousands of years of hard physical labor and exercise. Peasants who tilled the fields, sowed grain, brought in the crops, did not bring the hay in the shed, nor did shepherds, who went with their sheep and goats through the mountains in wind and weather, suffered from lack of exercise.

Hardly having to move was a luxury for priests and nobles who lived from the work of others: in early modern Italy, pale skin of women was considered noble, as was long nails, because it showed that these privileged people did not have to work physically . Obesity also showed that someone belonged to the ruling classes, firstly had a lot to eat and secondly did not have to exert himself physically.

Craftsmen, construction workers, foresters, postmen or gardeners do not suffer from a lack of exercise even today. But physical work has become less important overall. Most of the work is done on the computer today, even with previously classic body work.

This is not without consequences. The Body Mass Index, the relationship between height and weight has shifted in the past 50 years.

We do not have to prepare our food ourselves, we do not even have to buy the individual ingredients, we no longer fish the fish, we take it out of the freezer and we do not pick the apples from the tree, but throw them in the shopping basket.

Thanks to Amazon, we no longer even have to go to the bookstore, thanks to online banking no longer to the Sparkasse, instead of writing a letter and at least walking to the mailbox, we write emails.

Appeals to the guilty conscience are not enough, because previous generations, who did not know the temptations of the Internet, did not voluntarily challenge their bodies.

In the long run, evolution will adapt our body to lack of exercise and industrial food, for example by changing the position of the pelvis. But our biology lags behind our culture.

But an organism that is programmed for movement suffers if it is not challenged. In the long run, lack of movement damages all organs.

Sports scientist Veit Wang says: “If our bodies don't move, some things regress. Let's take the skeletal system: the articular cartilage supports cushioning and the sliding function. It allows the mechanical movement in the joints to run smoothly. If this system is to work well, it needs some alternation between exercise and relaxation. If we do not move, then this tissue regresses. The result can be painful osteoarthritis, in which the bones in the joints rub against each other. ”

The body adapts

We often do not notice the consequences of a lack of movement because our need to do something matches our ability to do so. A young body can better compensate for a lack of exercise than an old one, and that is why we often blame our age for the drop in performance. Our decreasing abilities are hardly due to age, at least not before the age of 40, but are a long consequence of a lack of training. The body regenerates itself when we get older.

However, age means that the effects of a lack of training become clear: if I do not exercise enough for a few years at 30, I may not be able to jog through the park anymore - if I have hardly moved at 50 for 20 years, serious illnesses may be those Episode.

In addition, many people in their 20s generally move more than in the 40s or 50s. Movement is not only the classic of a "healthy lifestyle" such as hiking in the mountains, but also "traveling through world history", without looking for a place to sleep with a backpack on your shoulder, dragging moving boxes from one city to another, the nights at parties By dancing, marking your area with the gang on the Bahnhofsplatz or roaming through the night in search of sexual partners, a lack of exercise prevents.

We won't feel sick for years if we come out of breath faster when climbing stairs and the radius is getting smaller and smaller. In addition, it is difficult to tell whether we are subconsciously adapting to our declining skills or just choosing the more convenient way. Do we drive to shopping at 40 because we only had one bike when we were 20 or do we put too much effort into cycling?

Only those who move can feel their bonds

We often only notice the consequences of a lack of movement late if we do not challenge our body. Those who jog in front of the TV after years get side stitches; Anyone who complements the way from the office to the sofa and from there to the pub with weekly strength training will feel pain in muscles after the first time that they did not know before that they existed.

Most people do not consider exercise problems until they have to see a doctor because they suffer from high blood pressure or back pain. The alarm bells rang much earlier.

First signs

1) It is difficult for us to climb stairs.

2) When we go down stairs, we have to hold on.

3) Mountain hikes are hard on us, as are cycling on slopes.

4) A short sprint gets us out of breath.

5) We hardly manage to get the shopping basket into the car.

6) Digging around a bed, cutting the hedge or chopping wood is overwhelming.

7) On city tours we shimmy from one bistro to the next.

8) We have problems to tie our shoes when standing.

9) When we get up from a chair, we support ourselves.

10) If we stand on one leg for more than a few seconds, we support ourselves.

11) Even if we walk for a long time, we have to rest.

We should clarify whether we may have a serious illness. But if that is not the case and our everyday life consists of sitting, whether in the office, over coffee, watching TV or in the car, then sport is the order of the day.

Age is not an excuse. Physical performance increases in the 20s and decreases from around the age of 40, but this only means that we have to take care of our bodies more with age.

With a little training, we can also run 50 miles three miles in 30 minutes, climb to the third floor without taking a break, and turn our shoulder joint 360 degrees.

Lack of exercise in adolescents

A new phenomenon is the lack of exercise by young people of the smartphone generation. Sports scientists estimate that three quarters of 13 to 15 year olds do not exercise enough. "Helicopter parents" who want to take care of their children in all situations are also responsible.

Whom mum and dad drive to school and pick them up by car, and whoever spends the afternoons between texting, Playstation and homework does not challenge his body. Many young people today no longer act in a way that was self-evident in the 1980s.

Digging in the mud as children, building tree houses, riding a bicycle to a neighboring village as a youth to meet the clique is a story from other times for some big city kids.

Programs in school and society can counteract the lack of exercise among young people. For example, it would be possible to allow physical acting to flow more strongly into the school: field trips in biology classes, living history in history, working with wood, stone or clay in art - there are many possibilities.

Lack of exercise makes you fat

Our genetics are not prepared to choose between Big Mäc and frozen pizza anywhere, anytime. As hunters and gatherers we sometimes hunted so large prey that we could feed on it for weeks, then again we found nothing except a few berries and roots for a long time.

Genetics have adapted to the diet of farmers over the millennia, but not to the constantly available fast food. Our body creates reserves with which we can survive the lean times.

If we exercise too little with a simultaneous excess of calories, fats and carbohydrates, the body builds up fat reserves, but does not use them up. We overload the cardiovascular system. The consequences are high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attack.


Not only our modern living environment leads to a lack of exercise, but also neurological diseases and physical disabilities, accidents and obesity.

Those suffering from arthritis or hip fractures get used to a gentle posture and avoid movements. Those affected become physically weaker, and that is why they move less and less.

If depression and loss of appetite are added, those affected hardly move at any time.

What does lack of exercise lead to?

The most common consequence of sedentary lifestyle is chronic back pain. Lack of exercise is one of the big three, which causes lifestyle diseases in addition to smoking and unhealthy nutrition, often goes hand in hand with the other two.

Restricted exercise promotes high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease and allergies. It also increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's. The risk of dying from chronic lack of exercise increases by 56% within 20 years, which is 4% more than the risk from smoking.

Those who exercise too little put on fat. The ratio of muscle and fat in the body changes, with the fat the endurance and strength diminishes, the risk of metabolic problems increases.

Lack of exercise weakens the body's immune system. Those who don't exercise enough get sick more often: viruses and bacteria penetrate more easily, and those affected become susceptible to allergies.

If you lose strength due to the lack of movement, you can hold your spine upright for less time, the joints become unstable, which increases the risk of injury, and the weakened heart muscle increases the risk of suffering from an infarction.

Sitting in the same position all day leads to bad posture, the possible consequences are not only back pain, but also a herniated disc.

If we sit a lot and move little, the neck and neck tense. The tension extends to the head and we suffer from a headache.

If we don't use the heart, we weaken the heart muscle. We are now overloading this weakened heart through sport.

When we move, we strain the internal organs and ensure that they are supplied with blood. A lack of exercise, on the other hand, leads to bowel noises, constipation and other digestive problems.

Obesity arises firstly from poor nutrition and secondly from too little exercise. When we hardly move, we consume more energy than the body consumes. The result is a constant feeling of indolence - we feel unresponsive and often suspect psychological stress, even though the cause is physical.

Diabetes 2, diabetes also affects more and more young people. The main causes are overweight and lack of exercise.

Bone loss degrades the bone substance. The sufferers suffer fractures more often. Bones build substance when the muscles are stressed. Therefore, lack of exercise is one of the triggers here.

Osteoarthritis arises when the cartilage regresses and the joints wear out. This happens again when we move too little.


Lack of exercise is not a cause of stress, but exercise is the natural reaction to a stressful situation. Stress is an exceptional state of our brain chemistry and is necessary to face dangers. Hormones are in full swing and we can do more than usual.

In our natural history, for example, the brains released when a lion suddenly faced us. In a flash, our subconscious decided whether we fought or fled. As a result, the hormones break down again.

Today we are stressed because we cannot pay bills, overlap appointments, the landlord is annoying or the neighbor reports us to the police. The brain does not know this, however, and the stress hormones do not decide between the attacking lion and the regulatory office.

So it helps to respond to stress the way we did in prehistoric times - physically. Running through the forest, roaring, chopping wood or an hour of strength training break down the hormones.


Former couch potatoes, but also ex-junkies and dry alcoholics sometimes resemble converts who act radically the opposite of their previous lifestyle.

Not only too much, but also too little exercise is harmful. The body wants to be challenged, but not overloaded. He needs employment as well as the time to regenerate.

If you think that after years on the sofa between cigarettes, chips and alcohol, you have to walk ten kilometers every morning without having prepared your body for it, you are harming your body a second time.

Even those who have to carry heavy workloads ruin their bones, joints and metabolism.

If symptoms of lack of exercise appear without causing a serious illness, we should take it easy.

Instead of running the city marathon, it is enough to go for an hour walk or bike twice a week. The body tells us how much and how long light sport is good for us. As long as we feel comfortable, everything is fine.

If the lack of movement is paired with a high excess weight, we should refrain from running because it puts too much strain on the joints. Swimming, on the other hand, reduces weight, and instead of walking through the forest one hour a week, we can spend our time doing aqua aerobics.

What to do?

If you work on your desktop for eight hours a day, the advice doesn't help you to go between jogging. But many exercises can also be easily inserted during work.

For example, you can lift your feet and stretch your knee. If you do that regularly, they are pushing your muscles in your thigh.

In between, you can stand on tiptoe and then raise and lower your body and then hold on tiptoe. This is how they train their calves.

When you are sitting on the chair with your back straight, pull your knees up until you come over the edge of the chair and your abs tighten.

Do you work in an open-plan office or do you need to go to an authority? Just go up and back up one floor. This can also be repeated, for example if you have to wait at the regulatory office.

Put your hands on your lap as if you were praying. Then spread your hands apart. This will train your pectoral muscles, biceps and triceps.

Press your palms against the underside of the desk.

Tighten the muscles of the buttocks, relax the muscles again and tighten again. During lunch break you can take a walk in. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Pschyrembel Online: (access: 19.08.2019), lack of exercise [general]
  • Anna Maria Abraham: Obesity and sedentary lifestyle - An empirical study on healthy eating and physical activity, Grin, 2009
  • Gert Kaluza: coping with stress - training manual for psychological health promotion, Springer, 2004
  • Joshua Z Willey et al .: "Physical Inactivity Predicts Slow Gait Speed ​​in an Elderly Multi-Ethnic Cohort Study: The Northern Manhattan Study", in: Neuroepidemiology, Volume 49, 2017, Karger
  • Ilka Köther: Thiemes Altenpflege, Thieme, 2007
  • Christine Graf et al .: "Lack of exercise and obesity in children and adolescents", in: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin, Volume 57 Issue 9, 2006,
  • Hans Konrad Biesalski: Our nutritional biography: Those who know it live healthier, Albrecht Knaus Verlag, 2017
  • Robert Koch Institute: (accessed: August 19, 2019), physical activity

Video: Lack of exercise - dangerous for mind and body. Tomorrow Today (June 2022).


  1. Esra

    An incomparable phrase, I like it :)

  2. Squire

    And how in this case to proceed?

  3. Mam

    It is remarkable, very amusing phrase

  4. Tajora

    Well, you are going too far. I do not agree, this cannot be, we cannot allow this to happen. Straight a storm arose in my soul. Yesterday I read about the frequent accidents of airliners, they write that now they fall 12 times more often than 20 years ago. They say that cars are to blame, and computers, of course, too, but it seems to me that they used to fly differently earlier, I mean less often. Ie, the statistics are misinterpreting or the reporters added something on their own.

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