Do Benefits of Exercise Get Lost Sitting Too Much?

Research has demonstrated often that sitting too much is bad for us. Individuals who sit ten or more hours a day are at greater risk of premature death. Too much sitting can cause a host of health problems especially if exercise is absent.

We have all heard that sitting for extended periods of time can take years away from our lives. New scientific research has backed this up and now sitting for long periods of time has been linked to various forms of cancer.

A large meta-analysis was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looking at 43 observational studies with approximately 69,000 cancer cases. The study reported the lowest and highest “sedentary time” in subjects and concluded higher sedentary times were associated with an “increased risks of certain types of cancer.” The researchers found “sitting is associated with a 24 percent increased risk of colon cancer, a 32 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21 percent increased risk of lung cancer.” The good new, however, is only 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day “substantially weakens this risk”. Time to start standing and moving more!

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Edward Stanley, 1873.

Four Tips if You are Sitting Too Much

Assuming the above statement is true, then how can we add more activity into our daily routine to help us add more years to our lives rather than the other way around? Here are four easy ways to get you started.

1. Use a Pedometer. Research has shown repeatedly that people who walk more during the day are thinner than those who don’t walk as much. Pedometer users take approximately 40 percent more steps throughout the day than non-pedometer wearers. Build up to a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Keep in mind there is no magic number here. The research shows anywhere between 8,000 to 12,000 steps a day is optimal for health and keeping your bodyweight in check.

2. Increase Office Activity. When you need to make or take a call, do it standing preferably while walking outside; make it a walking conference call. Always take the stairs rather than use an elevator. Hard to imagine but the worldwide average for using the stairs is only 5 percent. Get out for a 15-minute walk at lunch time. If possible, get a walking treadmill desk, standing desk etc. You get the idea.

3. Turn Sunday into a Funday. This of course could be any weekend day. Have a predetermined plan and schedule an activity that is done with family or friends. Get together for a hike, a long bike ride, walk/run, stadium stair climb, run a road race together, kayak/SUP trip, etc.

4. Take a Short Walk After Dinner. This can be a big one for paying back strong health dividends. Research shows, a short 15-20 minute walk following dinner can improve digestion, decrease stress level, regulate blood sugar (great after a high carb meal), and improve sleep.

Additional Research on Sitting Too Much

A great reference for me lately has been the new book, “Exercised” by Harvard University researcher, Dr. Daniel Lieberman. He has a ton of health and fitness information in the book that is heavily referenced with some great longitudinal studies. According to Lieberman there is a lot of hyperbole out there with respect to research on sitting. He goes on to say, however, that there also well-publicized studies that have determined “sitting more than three hours a day is responsible for nearly 4 percent of death worldwide.” In addition, “replacing an hour or two of daily sitting with light activities like walking can lower death rates by 20 to 40 percent”.

Dr. Lieberman looks at three main concerns with too much sitting. First, when we spend 9-12 hours a day sitting, we could be using more of that time standing and adding more physical activity into our day. Second, long periods of “uninterrupted inactivity elevate levels of sugar and fat in the bloodstream”. Finally, his third concern is the most alarming, hours of too much sitting could “trigger our immune systems to attack our bodies through a process known as inflammation”. Keep in mind this is one of the more important reasons for strength training beyond building and maintaining muscle mass as we age. Muscle makes up about a third of of the body and lean muscle mass “has potent anti-inflammatory effects”. Just one more reason why EVERYONE should be committed to regular strength training.

Hopefully, reading a few of these statistics will help to change your mindset and get you moving a little bit more. I’m going to stand up now, how about you? Stay active and be safe.

Try the Jefit App to Increase Your Activity

The award-winning Jefit app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner, training log, the ability to track data and share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s huge exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit.