If you’re like most adults, you spend the majority of your waking hours sitting down. Your typical day probably includes driving to work, sitting in an office, driving home and watching TV. Not much exercise there. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re also aware that scientists have found increasing evidence that lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for several diseases and for risk of early death. Are you aware that recent estimates suggest that more than 5 million people die globally each year as a result of failing to meet recommended daily activity levels?(1)
That’s 5 million deaths that could have been but off for a few or even many years if those people forced themselves to get up and exercise. I can’t help but thinking of their arrival at St. Peter’s Gate:
St. Peter: “Hey Bob, what are you doing here? I didn’t expect to see you for a few years.”
Bob: “Yeah, it’s too late now, but I have to admit, I was too lazy to get up and move around. Silly, huh? I’d been reading about it for years….”
Are you going to have that conversation?
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The fact is, the health risks associated with sitting for eight or more hours a day -- whether at work, home or commuting -- can be eliminated with an hour or more of physical activity a day, according to a study from an international team of researchers.
An hour of moderate exercise a day is enough
to counter health risks from prolonged sitting.
In total the researchers analyzed 16 studies, which included data from more than one million men and women. The team grouped individuals into four quartiles depending on their level of moderate intensity physical activity, ranging from less than 5 minutes per day in the bottom group to over 60 minutes in the top. Moderate intensity exercise was defined as equating to walking at 3.5 miles/hour or cycling at 10 miles/hour, for example.
The researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day were sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day. However, as many as three out of four people in the study failed to reach this level of daily activity.
The fact is, for most people that commute to work and have office-based jobs, (just about everyone I know) there’s no way to escape sitting for a big chunk of your day. If that’s you, and you want to meet your grandchildren, you have to get in the habit of getting exercise, whether that’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work. An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk.
Hold on, I bet you’re thinking, “That doesn’t apply to me. I get plenty of exercise!” Well, perhaps you do. However, are you aware of the studies (2, 3, 4) that show that, even for those who exercise regularly, sitting for long periods increases heart failure?
even for those who exercise regularly,
sitting for long periods increases heart failure
See, here’s the problem. It’s not enough that you exercise regularly. You have to get up regularly. A regular fitness routine does NOT counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. A 2014 study (5) followed more than 82,000 men for 10 years and found no matter how much they exercised, prolonged sitting significantly increased the risk of heart failure.
Personally, after seeing the studies, I put a timer on my computer, and it goes off every 20 minutes. I keep a pair of dumbbells in my office, and now I do body weight squats with front arm raises holding the dumbbells. Sometimes I just get up and do pushups. The little exercise breaks don’t take more than a minute or so, but my heart’s beating when I sit back down.
Interestingly, according to James Levine, M.D., PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, “The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound. For starters, you'll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you're standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”(6)
So get up. Your life depends on it.