Exercise Can’t Undo Too Much Sitting
For so many, many hours of the day we sit and we sit and we sit some more. We drive to work, sitting. We sit at our desks all day long, sometimes without a lunch break. We sit in our cars or on public transportation for the ride home. We sit to eat dinner. After dinner, we park ourselves in front of the TV or computer and we sit some more. A sedentary lifestyle sets us up for an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Even if you exercise in the morning or afternoon that isolated daily exercise may not be enough to offset the health risks associated with sitting for many hours.
A number of studies have documented the harm that many hours of sitting can do to your health. Sedentary behavior is a risk factor for obesity, and all its related health conditions. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that prolonged sitting is responsible for 430,000 all-cause deaths in over 54 countries. Another study found sedentary behavior is a leading risk factor for mortality, second only to smoking.
Some studies have suggested that physical activity can offset the damage that sedentary behavior causes, but other studies have not supported those findings. The newest statement from the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation finds that no matter how much exercise one does, sitting for too long is detrimental to health.
Data that supports the new American Heart Association position statement was compiled from behavioral research done at Kaiser Permanente in southern California. The researchers found that most people sit for around six to eight hours daily. Based on current evidence all those hours of sitting are linked to an increased risk of impaired insulin sensitivity, diabetes, heart disease and all-risk cause of death. Those risks, based on the new data, are not reduced by moderate to vigorous daily exercise.
Prolonged sitting appears to be dangerous despite a daily, regular exercise habit.
Right now it is not clear just how much time is the “cut off” for too many sitting hours. What is clear is that everyone should try to reduce long periods spent sitting, by getting up to move around as much as possible throughout the day. For every hour that you sit, get up and move for a few minutes. It’s also clear that it is better to spread out your exercise over many days, rather than exercise for prolonged periods two to three times a week.
Tips to get moving throughout the day include:
- Getting up to throw away trash
- Walking to the water cooler for refills
- Taking the stairs as much as possible
- Going out for lunchtime walks
- Taking an exercise class at lunchtime
- Having “walking meetings”