Sitting May Erase Benefits of Exercise

Research suggests that regular exercise can not overcome the negative impact of sitting too much.

Studies have consistently shown that prolonged sitting is bad for your health—and if you think your daily workout cancels the negative effects of sitting, think again. In fact, a large Australian study has shown that more sitting is associated with higher mortality—and exercise does little to change that.(1)

Of course, that doesn’t mean exercise is worthless. On the contrary, it is an important component of overall health and wellbeing. But exercise alone isn’t enough. It’s time for a paradigm shift—from exercise to movement—and movement can happen all day long.

The Effects of Sitting

Researchers have studied sitting extensively because we are a society of sitters. We sit at desks, we sit in cars, and we sit on the couch to watch television. But here’s the thing—the human body was not designed to sit and certainly not for prolonged periods of time.

The data is consistent. Prolonged sitting can take years off of your life. What’s more, it appears to be a dose-response relationship. People who sit for 11 or more hours per day are 40 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who sit for less than four hours per day.(2)People who sit for prolonged periods of time are also more likely to die from cancer.(3)

Get Moving

So, how do you combat the effects of sitting? Get moving. If you start your day with a jog or a visit to the gym, you’re on the right track. But if you park yourself in a chair for the rest of the day, that workout may not be doing as much good as you think.

It’s time to incorporate movement into your entire day. That doesn’t mean you have to become a fitness fanatic. Exercise and movement are not always the same thing. Think about building moderate physical activity into as much of your day as possible.

How can you do that if your job requires you to be parked in front of a computer all day? Think outside the box and get moving

  • Rethink your commute. If possible, walk or bike to work to build some extra movement into your day.
  • Trade email for face-to-face conversation. Email can be a timesaver, but sometimes it’s easier to hash out the details in person—and the bonus is this can give you a chance to take a walk down the hall to your coworker’s office.
  • Set a timer. Set a timer to go off every hour to remind you to take a break—even if it just means walking down the hall to the water cooler or standing up and taking a quick stretch break.
  • Make it a moving lunch break. Why eat lunch at your desk? You’ve been sitting there all morning already. Take a quick walk at lunch before you have to sit for the rest of the day.
  • Consider a treadmill desk. Treadmill desks are gaining traction as more users reap the benefits. They not only keep you moving, they can be a huge boon to your posture.
  • Standing phone calls. Invest in a headset or speakerphone that allows you to get up and move around during phone calls.

References:

  1. van der Ploeg HP, Chey T, Korda RJ, et al. Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Australian adults. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012; 172(6): 494-500.
  2. Katzmarzyk PT, Lee IM. Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis. BMJ Open. 2012; 2:e000828 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000828.
  3. PatelAV, Bernstein L, Deka A, et al. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. American Journal of Epidemiology [early online publication]. July 22, 2010.
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