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Exercise, Stop Sitting

Friday, November 09, 2012

Exercise, Stop SittingFootball season is here and we are plagued with 2 new studies about the perils of sitting. There is absolutely no doubt that exercise is beneficial for health.

The research adds to a growing scientific consensus that the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be.

Along with questions about general health, disease status, exercise regimens, smoking, diet and so on, the survey asked respondents how many hours per day in the previous week they had spent sitting in front of the television.

Watching television is not in and of itself hazardous. But television viewing time is a useful, if somewhat imprecise, marker of how much someone is engaging in so-called sedentary behavior.

Using complex actuarial tables and adjusting for smoking, waist circumference, dietary quality, exercise habits and other variables, the scientists were next able to isolate the specific effect that the hours of sitting seemed to be having on people’s life spans.

And the findings were sobering: Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes.

Looking more broadly, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV.

These rather unnerving results jibe with those of another new study of sitting. This one measured full-day sitting time, covering not only hours whiled away in front of the television, but also time spent in a chair at work.

Together, those hours consumed a majority of a person’s life. “The average adult spends 50% to 70% of their time sitting”.

The researchers found that those people with the “highest sedentary behavior,” meaning those who sat the most, had a 112% increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147% increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49% greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.

Many of us in modern society have jobs which involve sitting at a computer all day. We might convince ourselves that we are not at risk of disease because we manage the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Why is sitting so bad? The most striking feature of prolonged sitting is the absence of skeletal muscle contractions, particularly in the very large muscles of the lower limbs.

When muscles don’t contract, they require less fuel, and the surplus, in the form of blood sugar, accumulates in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes risk and other health concerns.

Excessive sitting is theoretically easy to combat. First, cut TV time. The evidence indicates that four hours per day is in the ‘risky’ category, while less than two hours per day is in the lower-risk group.

Then look to the rest of your day. Try to reduce daily sitting by an hour. Here are some ideas: including “putting the garbage bin on the other side of the office, standing during coffee breaks and telephone calls, having standing meetings, standing on the bus.”

There is absolutely no doubt that exercise is beneficial for health.

If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, take time to reflect on your activity levels for the remaining 23.5 hours,” and aim to “be active, sit less.

To start your exercise regimen, contact Answer is Fitness.

NY Times



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