Can Sitting Cancel Out The Benefits Of Exercise?

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Can Sitting Cancel Out The Benefits Of Exercise?
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Recent research continues to reaffirm the unhealthy effects of sitting – which can overwhelm any benefits that exercise might have. According to one study, the benefits of exercise can be blunted if you spend the rest of the day sitting – a lifestyle that is very common.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the research warns that sitting too much is associated with higher rates of hospitalization, heart diseases, cancer, and other diseases. Those who exercise regularly are not spared from the dangers of sitting too much, the study stresses. [1]

The study was carried out by Dr. David Alter, a heart expert from the University of Toronto, and his colleagues. The team pooled results from 47 studies that asked people the amount of time they spent sitting and exercising as well as rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death. They concluded that the risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes is greater in people who spend on their seats: whether at work, home, or in the car.

Here are the major findings of the study:

• Heavy sitters have a 90% higher risk of developing diabetes than those who sat less.

• Heavy sitters have an 18% chance of dying of heart disease or cancer.

• These people also have 24% greater odds of dying from any cause.

The rates mentioned above refer to the average among people who exercised regularly and those who did not engage themselves in physical activity. The researchers findings are supported by another study on the failure of physical activeness to undo the negative effects of sitting. [2]

The results of the investigation surprised Alter, who noted the uniformity of the deleterious effects of sitting time across the board of total mortality, heart disease mortality, and the occurrence of heart disease and cancer. [3] This consistency provides evidence on the negative impact of sitting, he adds.

Several studies have attributed the damage caused by prolonged sitting to reduced muscle activity, which results limits the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and remove harmful blood fats. [4] Though physically active individuals can make a little bit of headway on the bad effects of sedentary time, they cannot completely nullify it, says Alter.

To reduce sitting for long periods, there are actions that you can take.

• Use a height-adjustable computer desk such as this one (Amazon link) that allows you flexibility to shift between standing and seated working positions as often as you want.

• Break up other long periods of sitting time with shorter bouts of activities such as standing, walking, or flexing.

• Limit the time spent on watching TV and traveling by vehicles if possible (consider walking or cycling for short errands into town etc).

• Make your bedroom a TV- and computer-free zone.

• Stand on the train or bus when traveling short distances.

• Join in community-based activities such Zumba classes, and yoga and walking groups.

• Take the stairs at work or walk up escalators.

• Stay active, motivated and on your feet in general! Remember who we are: We evolved as hunter gatherers and are evolutionarily adapted to being on our feet for much of the time.

• Be aware of the effect of your emotions on your motivation. Also consider that overeating may make you want to laze around and be inactive.

Leisurely movement has a profound impact on your health. It can help burn more calories, which leads to weight loss and increased energy. When you are standing or engage in active movement, you are triggering the process related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. [5] This will prevent you from being an “active couch potato”, which is defined as a person who does exercise but then is largely sedentary the rest of the time.


Why Sitting Down All Day Is Actually Killing You + 7 Tips To Save Your Health


[1] Biswas A et al. January 20, 2015. Annals of Internal Medicine. Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

[2] Duviver B et al. February 13, 2013. PLoS One. Minimal Intensity Physical Activity (Standing and Walking) of Longer Duration Improves Insulin Action and Plasma Lipids More than Shorter Periods of Moderate to Vigorous Exercise (Cycling) in Sedentary Subjects When Energy Expenditure Is Comparable.

[3] National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability. Sedentary Lifestyle is Dangerous to Your Health.

[4] World Health Organization. Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO.

[5] Manson JE et al. February 9, 2004. JAMA Internal Medicine.The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary LifestyleA Call to Action for Clinicians.

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