The psychological treatment of sedentary behavior, in 9 steps

We live in a sedentary society. Although exercise and sports have become popular in recent times, most people have a basic routine that requires them to sit in a chair most of the time without making any physical exertion. Still in terms of recreation, a large part of the population barely moves (for example, spends much of their time watching television or networking), having a very passive life on the physical level.

A sedentary lifestyle can be a major problem: not engaging in physical activity is dangerous and can be a major risk factor for suffering from medical illnesses and mental disorders. It is even possible that people who want or need to stop leading this type of lifestyle may not know how to do it or are not trained to do so. This is why it will often be necessary perform psychological treatment of sedentary behavior.

    Sedentary lifestyle: definition and risks

    Although this is a concept already known to most of the population, it never hurts to revisit the meaning of the term sedentary lifestyle to find out what it is.

    Sedentary lifestyle is defined by the World Health Organization as lifestyle that involves lack of regular physical exercise or tends to lack movement, Including as such the accomplishment of less than half an hour of daily physical activity.

    It is a way of life that began with the birth of agriculture and ranching but has become more and more accentuated over time, as technological advancements have made it unnecessary to perform large travel and minimize the effort required to carry out our tasks. Today, even for something as desirable as hobbies or socializing, it is enough to move, Making us more and more inactive.

    Although it is not technically considered a disease or disorder, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the main modifiable risk factors for a large number of diseases, as it weakens the immune system and hinders optimal functioning. of the body. In fact, around two million premature deaths could be caused by this factor.

    associated disorders

    Some of the medical conditions with which It has been linked to heart disease in general, obesity and high blood pressure, Different types of cancer and metabolic disorders such as diabetes (especially type II). Derived from the above disorders, it can also increase the risk of stroke.

    On top of that, it also has a mental effect: it is much more likely that a sedentary person will develop anxiety, stress or depression. too much facilitates and accelerates neuronal degeneration in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

    The benefits of sport

    A relevant element in the face of sedentary lifestyles is to show on the one hand the drawbacks that it presents and, on the other hand, the multiple advantages of sports sport.

    In this sense, it should be noted that the practice of sports generates endorphins, so it improves the mood of the subject. It improves the health of our muscles and our heart, strengthens our immune system and improves the quality of life. It also increases the memory capacity and the level of energy and attention that we can put into play.

    It also improves sleep and sexual intercourse. It reduces anxiety and depression levels and is even a protective factor against dementia. It also tends to generate a sense of control and increase perceived self-efficacy. Lastly, it stylizes the figure and improves overall fitness, which can help increase self-esteem in some people.

      Psychological treatment of sedentary behaviors

      The aspects discussed above indicate that sedentary behavior presents a risk and a disadvantage for our body. This is why many people consider the need for a change that they may not be able to see, or even in many cases have not taken into account their lifestyle and go for psychological consultation to another reason but in which is a very relevant factor (such as subjects with depression), why they may need professional help.

      Here are a few aspects and techniques that can be used in the psychological treatment of sedentary behavior.

      1. Analysis and assessment of initial condition and maintenance factors

      Before starting a psychological treatment of sedentary behavior will be necessary assess how sedentary you are, If there are causes for this and what are they or if there are factors that prevent their behavior from varying. Subject’s beliefs regarding exercise, state of health (by medical examination), preferences, background, expectations, possible presence of emotional problems, and physical activity history that were assessed were assessed. . had the subject, among other factors.

      Some of the most common reasons for having and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle or not playing sports are lack of time, the presence of a low sense of self-efficacy (i.e. the belief that they will not be able to exercise or maintain it over time.), lack of self-esteem in general, discomfort or comparison with other people in daily life or in sports centers, the presence of a handicap or the existence of methods of entertainment or the most comfortable and easy to carry distractions.

      All of these factors must be considered and treated differently in order to achieve successful psychological treatment of sedentary behavior.

      Once assessed, a series of techniques that help the patient to increase their activity level. It should be remembered that during this process it will also be necessary to assess different aspects and modify the plans according to the circumstances of each case.

      2. Psychoeducation

      Many people are unaware of the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, or even though they know it is not positive, they see no reason to change their behavior. In this sense, psychoeducation can be helpful, showing the pros and cons of physical activity and inactivity. Graphic elements can be used such as creating pro and con tables.

      3. Cognitive restructuring and discussion of beliefs and thoughts

      This technique may be necessary at any time. And there are many irrational beliefs and expectations about what and how one should be, what sport means or how the world can react to it. Posing them as a hypothesis, generating alternatives and conducting behavioral experiments to contrast each of them can generate behavior change.

      Cognitive restructuring makes it possible, for example, to combat dysfunctional beliefs about self-esteem and self-efficacy which generate a depressive position and a passive impotence. For example, various types of recordings can be used to compare initial expectations with the results of a behavioral experiment and to observe whether or not their beliefs match what was expected.

      4. Development of objectives

      If the subject agrees to introduce behavior changes, these must be established in collaboration with the professional so that fixed, progressive and realistic goals are set.

      5. Development of a business plan

      If the subject agrees, a physical activity plan can be made. Together with him, the circumstances, what he is willing to do and his preferences and goals to form a cohesive and achievable plan will be analyzed. It should be noted that basic conditioning should be done first and then mount requests and keep them on time.

      6. Gradual exposure

      It is important to keep in mind that physical exercise requires a certain level of effort. Although it depends on each case, someone who is not used to it may not start with too demanding exercises or find it complicated and tiring and eventually give up. that’s why exercise performance should be considered gradually, Insertion of small physical activities (but not excessively easy but a small challenge) in daily life.

      7. Behavioral contract

      One way to encourage patient engagement is to enter into behavioral contracts, in which they agrees to perform certain activities, usually in exchange for a booster. It may be useful now to associate physical activity with carrying out an activity that is very enjoyable for the subject.

        8. Self-learning technique

        A technique widely used in different areas in which a behavior needs to be learned or established, is based on the use and modification of self-instructions or self-verbalizations that we perform when we do a behavior (for example: i must buy … / I will tell him that …) so that these are more positive than the previous ones and encourage us to act.

        9. Self-control training

        The feeling that we have little ability to control what happens to us or that our behavior is unlikely to have positive consequences in achieving our goals is one of the aspects that causes many people to remain in a state of passivity. and lack of physical activity. . Self-mastery training through Rehm self-mastery therapy it can be very useful in helping the subject to self-assess, to assess positively and to reinforce his behavior.

          10. Prevention of relapses

          A final step to keep in mind when it comes to sedentary behavior is the idea of ​​trying to maintain a change in behavior over time and make it difficult to reemerge sedentarism as a habit. In this sense, it is necessary to take into account the existence of factors likely to generate this relapse and to try to prevent it and generate alternative actions. It also promotes and reinforces the autonomy and the feeling of personal effectiveness of the subject.

          11. Evaluation and monitoring

          Depending on the subject, changes are made and once the treatment is complete, it is necessary to assess whether the objectives have been achieved, Compare the previous expectations with the results obtained and observe if, at any given time, there were difficulties and why.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Buceta, JM; Gutiérrez, F .; Castejón, J. and Bé, AM (1996), Psychological treatment of sedentary behavior. A Buceta, JM and Bé, AM (Eds.) Psychological treatment of habits and illnesses. Madrid, pyramid.
          • Hamilton, MT; Hamilton, DG; Zderic, TW (2004). Physiology of exercise versus physiology of inactivity: an essential concept for understanding the regulation of lipoprotein lipases. Exercise Sport Sci Rev,. 32: 161-166.

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