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The psychological treatment of sedentary behavior, in 9 steps

The psychological treatment of sedentary behavior, in 9 steps

June 16, 2024

We live in a sedentary society . Although in recent times the fact of exercising and sports has become popular, most people have a basic routine that requires them to spend a large part of their time sitting in a chair without hardly any physical effort. Also at the leisure level, a large part of the population hardly moves (for example, spends much of their time watching television or on networks), having a very passive life on a physical level.

A sedentary lifestyle can be an important problem: not performing any type of physical activity is dangerous and can be an important risk factor for the suffering of medical illnesses and mental disorders. It is even possible that people who want or need to stop carrying this type of lifestyle do not know how to do it or do not see themselves trained for it. That is why in many occasions it will be necessary perform a psychological treatment of sedentary behavior .


  • Related article: "Sedentary causes changes in the brain"

Sedentary: definition and risks

Although this is a concept already known to most of the population, it never hurts to revisualise the meaning of the term sedentary lifestyle in order to know what we are going to deal with.

A sedentary lifestyle is defined by the World Health Organization as the lifestyle that implies the absence of habitual physical exercise or that tends to the absence of movement , understood as such the realization of less than half an hour of daily physical activity.

It is a lifestyle that began to originate with the birth of agriculture and livestock but has been accentuated more and more with the passage of time, as technological advances allowed it was not necessary to make large displacements and minimize the necessary effort to carry out our tasks. Today, even for something as appetizing as leisure or social relations we just have to move , becoming more and more inactive.


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

Associated disorders

Some of the medical disorders with which has been related are heart disease in general, obesity and hypertension , various types of cancer and metabolic disorders such as diabetes (especially type II). Derived from the above disorders, it can also be found to increase the risk of stroke.

In addition to this, it also has an effect at the mental level: it is much more likely that a sedentary person develops anxiety, stress or depression. As well facilitates and accelerates neuronal degeneration in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.


The advantages of sport

A relevant element when dealing with sedentary lifestyle is to see on the one hand the disadvantages that this has and on the other the multiple advantages that the realization of sport has.

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

It also improves sleep and sexual relations. It reduces the levels of anxiety and depression and is even a protective factor for dementia. In addition, it usually generates the sensation of control and increases the perceived self-efficacy. Finally, stylize the figure and improve physical fitness in general, which can contribute to increase self-esteem in some people.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Goodbye to sedentary lifestyle: 6 reasons for sports"

The psychological treatment of sedentary behavior

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

Below are some Aspects and techniques that can be used in the psychological treatment of sedentary behavior .

1. Analysis and evaluation of the initial state and maintenance factors

Before starting a psychological treatment of sedentary behavior will be necessary evaluate to what extent you are sedentary , if there are causes for this and what they are or if there are factors that prevent their behavior from changing. The subject's beliefs regarding exercise, health status (through medical examination), preferences, context, expectations, the possible presence of emotional problems and the history of physical activity the subject has had, among others, have been evaluated. factors.

Some of the most usual reasons for having and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle or not doing any kind of sport are the lack of time, the presence of a low sense of self-efficacy (ie the belief that they will not be able to do sport or keep it in time), lack of self-esteem in general, discomfort or comparison with other people in daily life or in sports centers, the presence of disability or even the existence of entertainment methods or the most comfortable and easy distractions to carry out .

All these factors have to be taken into account and treated differentially in order to be able to carry out a psychological treatment of sedentary behavior successfully.

Once evaluated, you can start to apply a series of techniques that help the patient to increase their level of activity . It is necessary to bear in mind that during this process different aspects must also be evaluated and the plans modified according to the circumstances of each case.

2. Psychoeducation

Many people are not aware of the risks of a sedentary life, or even though they know it is not positive, they do not see a reason to change their behavior. In this sense psychoeducation can be useful, showing advantages and disadvantages of both activity and physical inactivity. You can use graphic elements such as the realization of tables of pros and cons .

3. Cognitive restructuring and discussion of beliefs and thoughts

This technique may be necessary at any time. And there are many beliefs and irrational expectations about what and how one should be, what sports 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 behavioral change.

Cognitive restructuring makes it possible, for example, to combat dysfunctional beliefs about one's worth and self-efficacy that generate a depressive position and passive defenselessness. For example, various types of records can be used to compare initial expectations with the results of a behavioral experiment and to see whether or not their beliefs fit what they expected.

4. Development of objectives

If the subject agrees to introduce behavioral changes, they must be established jointly with the professional so that established, gradual and realistic objectives are established.

5. Generation activity plan

If the subject agrees, a physical activity plan can be carried out. Together with him, the circumstances, what he is willing and his preferences and objectives will be analyzed to form a coherent and achievable plan. It must be taken into account that first a basic conditioning has to be done before go up the demands and keep them in time .

6. Gradual exposure

It is important to keep in mind that performing physical exercise requires a certain level of effort. While it will depend on each case, someone who is not used to it can not start with excessively demanding exercises or find it complicated and tired and end up leaving it. It is because of that the exercise should be considered in a gradual manner , inserting small physical activities (although not excessively easy, but involving a small challenge) in daily life.

7. Behavioral contract

One way to encourage the patient's commitment is to conduct behavioral contracts, in which commits to perform certain activity, usually in exchange for a reinforcer . It may be useful to associate for example the performance of physical activity to the achievement of a highly enjoyable activity for the subject.

  • Maybe you're interested: "What is positive or negative reinforcement in Psychology?"

8. Self-instruction technique

A technique widely used in different areas in which you must learn or establish a behavior, is based on the use and modification of self-instructions or self-verbalizations that we carry out when we do some behavior (for example: I have to buy ... / I will go and I'm going to tell you that ...) so that they are more positive than the previous ones and induce us to act.

9. Self-control training

The sensation of having little capacity to control what happens to us or of our behavior hardly having positive consequences in order to reach our objectives is one of the aspects that generates that many people remain in a state of passivity and lack of physical activity. Self-management training using Rehm self-management therapy It can be very useful in helping the subject to self-monitor, evaluate himself in a positive way and self-reinforce his behavior.

  • Related article: "Rehm's Self-Control Therapy"

10. Prevention of relapse

A final step to take into account when dealing with sedentary behavior is the idea of ​​trying to maintain behavioral change over time and make it difficult for a sedentary lifestyle to re-emerge as a habit . In this sense it is necessary to take into account the existence of factors that may generate this relapse and try to prevent it and generate alternatives for action. It also promotes and reinforces the autonomy and sense of self-efficacy of the subject.


11. Evaluation and monitoring

According to the subject, changes are introduced and once the treatment is finished it is necessary assess whether the objectives have been met , contrast the previous expectations with the results obtained and observe if at some point there have been difficulties and why.

Bibliographic references:

  • Buceta, J.M .; Gutiérrez, F .; Castejón, J. and Bueno, A.M. (1996), Psychological treatment of sedentary behavior. In Buceta, J.M. and Well, A.M. (Eds.) Psychological treatment of habits and diseases. Madrid, Pyramid.
  • Hamilton, M.T .; Hamilton, D.G .; Zderic, T.W. (2004). Exercise physiology versus inactivity physiology: an essential concept for understanding lipoprotein lipase regulation. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, .32: 161-166.

Improvement in Physical Activity in a Child | Treatment without medicine | Naadi Yoga (June 2024).


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