We’ve shared a variety of posts about the importance of physical activity. Sitting less is crucial for our health. Yet, the majority of Americans are inactive, despite the quantity of research that demonstrates the importance of physical activity in maintaining our overall wellness. Some benefits of regular physical activity include:
- helps maintain a healthy weight
- can improve blood pressure
- keeps diabetes at bay
- improves mental health
- helps our brain health
- can reduce inflammation
- benefits our sleep quality
- can lower the risk of fatty liver disease
- has been found to lower the risk of 13 types of cancers
- reduces pain levels
And that’s just a few of the benefits! The bottom line is clear, exercise is crucial for our health. But new information is shedding light that it isn’t just about moving for the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. Evidence shows that what you do the rest of the day makes a significant difference in the benefit. An interesting new study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that people who exercised for half an hour a day, but then were sedentary between 10 to 12 hours a day had higher blood sugar, cholesterol and body fat compared to those who moved around more.
“It’s only in the last five years or so that we’ve begun to understand that physical activity isn’t the whole story,” Raija Korpelainen, a professor of health exercise at the University of Oulu in Finland and co-author of the new study, said.
During the study, researchers surveyed 3,700 men and women in Finland. Participants wore scientific-grade activity trackers for at least a week to assess their movements throughout the day. Participants were categorized into four groups ranging from “active couch potatoes” to “movers”. Within that range, participants exercised daily for different amounts of time, and were also sedentary for different time frames. The results showed that those that participated in more light intensity movement (were less sedentary) apart from their designated exercise time had favorable differences in their cardiometabolic health markers.
Research has also started to reveal that activity of a moderate intensity may target different parts of the body (such as different muscle fibers), in comparison with prolonged sitting. That may be the reason behind why people that exercise, yet sit for long periods still have a higher risk for cardio muscular issues than their counterparts that maintain active.
Research published in The Lancet suggested that middle-aged to older adults’ risk of early death increased in two cases: when sitting time increased and also when moderate activity time decreased. The research showed that it wasn’t until people were doing an hour per day of moderate activity that the effects of increasing sitting time were counteracted.
Further follow-up research concluded, “Sitting is associated with all-cause and CVD (cardiovascular disease) mortality risk among the least physically active adults; moderate-to-vigorous physical activity doses equivalent to meeting the current recommendations attenuate or effectively eliminate such associations.”
The takeaway is once again: get up and get moving. Sitting too much does not benefit us in any way, and can actually increase the risk of many health issues. Start reducing sitting time by shifting an activity you usually do while sitting, to one that you complete standing. Take a phone call while you walk around your home. Watch a show standing or while walking in place- or try one of our weekly exercises. Read the mail while standing. Switch your desk to a high-top desk that allows you to stand (also read about the importance of ergonomics, here). There are so many tasks throughout the day that can completed while shifting away from being seated. Try one today.