Regular Exercise is Good for Your Health
– but it’s not as straightforward as you might think
Regular bouts of exercise are a critical component of health and well-being. However, these bouts do not negate the harmful effects of being sedentary during the rest of your day.
Most people now accept there are benefits to exercise and there is a large body of scientific evidence to support it.
In spite of this evidence only about 25% of the population meets the recommendations from both the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine on what constitutes the minimal amount of exercise required to gain the benefit. (30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 days per week)
Sedentary Behavior is Bad for Your Health
– even if you do exercise the recommend 30 minutes per day
There is now clear evidence that too much sitting increases the likelihood of getting a host of diseases and dying. In a landmark study, the greater daily sitting time the greater likelihood of dying over a 12-year follow-up. This is not a trivial effect – the most sedentary group was 50% more likely to die. And, this was true after controlling for other risk factors and age.
The Curve Ball
– the unexpected consequences of too much sitting
The effect of sitting too much on health and morbidity was independent of how much you exercised. Bluntly: you cannot compensate for excessive sitting by hitting the gym on a regular basis.
The physiological effects of excessive sitting are different from the physiological benefits of regular exercise. The preliminary evidence indicates that sitting impacts the fat metabolism.
What is not preliminary is evidence that says sitting too much is bad for your health and longevity.
Towards Finding A Solution
Sedentary behavior is defined as “any waking activity characterized by a low energy expenditure and a sitting or reclining posture. A natural question is how much sitting is too much? The study found a dose effect for sitting. That is, even the people who sat less than a quarter of their awake hours were affected. More sitting, the greater the impact.
Most adults now burn fewer calories per day than in 1965 – 400 fewer calories per day (less energy expenditure) Thanks to labor saving devices and affluence we don’t do as much housework, yard work or walking. We do spend more time driving in cars, sitting in front of a TV screen or computer.
The answer lies in moving more during the day, every day. A good starting point is to purchase an activity monitor like Withings Pulse or FitBit that use an accelerometer to measure daily movement. A less precise but inexpensive alternative is MOVES an app for smart phones. In either case, the idea is to get a baseline measure of your daily movement and then to find ways add more activity to your day, everyday.
A few ideas to get you rolling:
- Set the alarm on your phone to go off every hour. If you are sitting, get up and move, even if it is only for a few minutes.
- Park your car in a spot away from the entrance.
- Take the stairs.
- Take phone calls while standing or walking as often as you can.
- Do activities like email or web searches to a stand up desk or shelf that holds your laptop.
- Hold meetings while standing or walking.
While getting more active during the day will reduce the impact of sitting, it won’t take the place of more vigorous exercise.