Sedentary Lifestyle and Heart Disease: Is Your Couch Killing You?


Researchers from 16 countries came to a striking conclusion: an inactive lifestyle is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and two specific cancers—breast and bowel.

This is concerning because two out of every three adults fail to meet the American Heart Association’s recommendation to get 150 minutes of exercise per week. Even more worrisome is the fact that four out of every five children ages 13 to 15 do not get the suggested 60 minutes of activity per day. The long-term social, environmental, and economic consequences of this pandemic are staggering.

I read these articles from my favorite chair in front of the television, and was smugly reassured I am going to be OK because I exercise daily. But then panic set in. What if I can’t exercise? The fact is that if you subtract the time I spend on structured exercise, I am a sedentary adult. I drive everywhere I go. My occupation has no aerobic benefit. Many of my outside interests require no activity.

This realization has prompted me to reconsider my approach in the exam room. For years, I have been extolling the virtues of regular exercise and have spent countless hours wondering why patients don’t comply. I missed the mark.

Ways to Have a More Active Lifestyle:

  • Walk or bike to work.
  • Structure your day to include an activity that involves physical exertion.
  • Stop using the car to drive short distances.
  • Dust off the bike in the garage to make those short trips.
  • Suspend “screen time” for kids. Send the kids outside and make them active before they’re allowed to play video games.

We also need to take action as a community. Build bike lanes, give employees bike racks and a place to shower. Carve out time in the work day for a walk. Societal change will be slow, but if there is not a shift in our lifestyle, we’re on a collision course with that deadly couch.

author name

Douglas C. Gohn, MD

Douglas C. Gohn, MD, is an electrophysiologist with The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health, and a researcher with extensive expertise in pacemaker and ablation technologies and procedures.

Education: A graduate of Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Dr. Gohn is an avid runner and triathlete and has completed multiple long course events.

Call: 717-544-8300

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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