Not even 1 hour of exercise per day will fix the effects of prolonged sitting.
Smoking is a bad habit. Drinking alcohol is a bad habit. Lifting boxes without bending the knees is a bad habit. Very few would disagree with these statements.
But now let’s look at something most of us do – sitting at a desk or in a chair/car for hours on end. This is a habit and it’s one that can’t possibly be bad, right? After all, you’re resting when you sit and resting with relaxation should always be a part of good health!
Good reasoning continues. If sitting was so bad, then that means that essentially everyone who has a job where they have to sit all day are pretty much “ruined” – and that can’t possibly be true!
Courage to Examine What is Presently Believed
Every medical study either confirms what we already know or plants a seed for a brand new direction. The latest studies are stating that sitting is equivalent to smoking in how it damages health of the body.
In fact, this topic is so important that a team of health experts convened in 2016 at a Lancet Executive Committee on physical activity to see if physical activity could change or even eliminate the mortality increase from sitting. The experts taught at and worked as scientists or doctors at premiere institutions such as the University of Cambridge, University of Queensland, Sydney University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and Oslo University Medical School.
They had analyzed the data of studies on over a million individuals that were followed up on for anywhere from two to 18 years. During this time period, 8.4% of the study subjects had passed away.
One of their biggest findings was that mortality rates were 12-59% higher in those who had the least physical activity levels and sat more than 4 hours a day.
How Does TV Watching Affect The Mortality Equation?
There was a lot more to the discovery picture though. it wasn’t just being sedentary that caused the problems. The bad habit of watching TV for 3 or more hours per day was associated with increased mortality, regardless of how much physical activity the study participants did each week.
That could mean you could work out as hard as an elite athlete, work at a day job that involves primarily sitting, and then come home at night to catch a few TV shows and the evening news and still be at a higher risk of dying.
It’s not fair at all! You put in your time at work being productive. You take care of your body. And you want to find out what’s going on in the world.
In the study, mortality was surprisingly significantly increased in those who had the highest level of activity if they watched TV for 5 hours or more per day.
This could mean that you may have to re-evaluate your favorite shows on television and make a decision on whether or not they are truly worth the placing of one foot closer to the grave.
The difficult part of it all is that It simply doesn’t take a lot extra effort to watch another two hours of TV – just add the morning news to watching a few shows and the evening news each day. What the heck; you have to find out how the morning traffic is going to be – and with all the teasers for upcoming stories, it’s easy to add the extra two hours. But those extra hours could be the real killers.
The researchers stated that high levels of moderately intense physical activity (60-75 minutes per day) SEEMS to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time. But – and there’s a big BUT – the high activity does not eliminate the increased risk associated with long hours of TV watching.
Exercise Recommendations Have Not Been Defined Properly in the Past
The researchers didn’t go into details about how other government health expert panels such as the CDC recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week PLUS two or more days a week the person should engage in muscle strengthening exercise. Their recommendation is based on the expected results from this combination – structure and flexibility plus the prescription is better followed than saying something like “Every month, you need 600 minutes of exercise.”
The 600-minute recommendation would translate to 10 hours a month but it’s not really a palpable and definable goal. If you’re like most people, then you’ll exercise once or twice the first week and then allow other things to come up that take precedence in your life. By the fourth week, you’ll start thinking, “Hey, I better get those 8 more hours in of exercise.”
What’s the Solution?
The bottom line here is that being sedentary – including being sedentary at work – will increase your chances of developing heart and blood vessel disease and diabetes – whether you exercise or not. The time you spend exercising is and will always be good – but it won’t be good enough unless you break into the 60+ minutes of exercise PER DAY. You must consider the amount of time you sit during the day and night when you’re planning your day.
Headed out to a work conference? It’s still no excuse. Nine or more hours of sitting won’t be neutralized by a 30-minute workout no matter how good you feel. You’ll need your 60-75 minutes of exercise and then have to make sure your TV time is at a low level. And who can resist watching television late at night in the hotel room?
How much sitting do you do at work each day? One of the big problems about sitting that the researchers haven’t touched yet is what happens to the feet and core muscles when you sit in a particular chair, all muscles are relaxed, and our blood circulation is reduced, which in turn is causing the symptoms associated with the sitting disease. With our new chair technology, your body is able to adapt to sitting in the way it needs to sit, such a way that your feet and core muscles are working and thus fighting the sitting disease.
Ekelund, U., et al. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonized meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. Lancet 2016 Sep 24;388(10051):1302-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27475271