Are you moving enough?

Written by Louie Cayedito

Are you moving enough?

The idea of staying healthy through exercise might make you think about going to the gym, lacing up your shoes for a run, or straining to get that last rep on the bench press.

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The recreational exercise you do is definitely healthy, but its benefits are specific to your activity of choice. Running makes you able to run faster and easier, and lifting weights allows you to lift more weight with greater ease, etc. Your exercise habits may have made you very aerobically fit or strong, but it might not be keeping you as healthy as you think. Whether you exercise a lot, or not at all, it’s important to think about whether or not you’re moving enough. If you’re someone who goes to the gym everyday, you might be quick to dismiss this question, but not so fast! A better question for you is: Are you sitting too much?

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Time spent seated, reclining, or lying down is called sedentary behavior. Studies show that Americans spend 55% of their waking hours (or 7.7 hrs/day) engaged in sedentary behavior1. For you, this might take the form of driving to work, sitting at your desk, or watching TV at night (or all of the above!) Being sedentary is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes, as well as specific risks of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer1. Doesn’t sound too surprising, right? Here’s the kicker: these risks persist even when controlled for physical activity. In other words, even if you hit the gym in the morning you’re still hurting your body by sitting all day!

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You may be thinking, is the risk of sitting really that high? A study found that people who reported sitting for 6 or more hours per day were 40% more likely to die within 15 years than people who reported sitting 3 hours or fewer2. However, if you find yourself in a job or life situation that requires you to sit, there is something you can do to reduce the health impact!

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The risk of being sedentary is a combination of total time spent sitting each day as well as the duration spent sitting at each bout3. If each bout of sitting is under 30 minutes, the risk of mortality is significantly lower than if each bout is an hour or longer3. The reason for this may be due to the change in our rate of energy expenditure when we sit down. According to Gavin Bradley, director of Active Working, metabolism slows 90% after 30 minutes of sitting. So, all we need to do to drastically reduce the health risks of sitting is to get up and move around every 30 minutes. Take the stairs, refill your water bottle, walk the dog, pace when on the phone. Get creative about finding ways to move and you’ll find yourself heading toward a healthier and longer life!

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1. Patterson R., McNamara E., Tainio M., de Sa TH., Smith AD., Sharp SJ., Edwards P., Woodcock J., Brage S., Wijndaele K. Sedentary behaviour and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and incident type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose response meta-analysis. Eur J Epidemiol. 2018 Sep; 33(9): 811-829
2. Patel AV, Bernstein L, Deka A, Feigelson HS, Campbell PT, Gapstur SM, Colditz GA, Thun MJ. Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Aug 15; 172(4): 419–429
3. Diaz KM, Howard VJ, Hutto B, Colabianchi N, Vena JE, Safford MM, Blair SN, Hooker SP. Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Oct 3;167(7):465-475


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