Do you sit all day long? Extended sitting can be very detrimental for your health. New studies go even further to tell us periodic standing may not be enough to offset these harmful effects. The good news is there are ways to avoid the hazards of all day downtime with these simple tricks!
The Perils of Extended Sitting
Numerous studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time each day leads to increased risk for early death, as well as heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions. Considering that 80 percent of Americans fall short of completing the recommended amount of exercise, 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week, it seems unrealistic to expect that people will replace sitting with even more exercise.
Scientists at the University of Utah School of Medicine investigated the health benefits of a more achievable goal, trading sitting for lighter activities for short periods of time and light intensity activities (e.g. casual walking, light gardening, cleaning) extends the life span of people who are sedentary for more than half of their waking hours.
They found that there is no benefit to decreasing sitting by two minutes each hour, and adding a corresponding two minutes more of low intensity activities. However, a “trade-off” of sitting for light intensity activities for two minutes each hour was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of dying.
“It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity. To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing,” Srinivasan Beddhu, M.D.
The Small Stuff Matters
It takes energy to exercise, strolling and other light activities use energy, too. Even short walks add up to a lot when repeated many times over the course of a week. Assuming 16 awake hours each day, two minutes of strolling each hour expends 400 kcal each week. That number approaches the 600 kcal it takes to accomplish the recommended weekly goal of moderate exercise. It is also substantially larger than the 50 kcal needed to complete low intensity activities for two minutes each awake hour over the course of one week.
“Exercise is great, but the reality is that the practical amount of vigorous exercise that can be achieved is limited. Our study suggests that even small changes can have a big impact,” Tom Greene, Ph.D..
We Need Exercise
If your job includes sitting for long periods of time-consider adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, plus your normal 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week is the minimum you need to be healthy. It is true moderate exercise strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones, and confers health benefits that low and light intensity activities can’t.
For the original publication vista the University of Utah Health Care.