Sitting on a chair all day? Exercise can “offset” the health risks associated with it, says research
Each year, more and more people become glued to their desks, their couches, and their beds due to technology. Various tools and devices have been developed that make many things accessible to people with just a tap of a finger. However, the sedentary lifestyle poses numerous health risks and can lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The good news is, these risks can be reduced. In a new study, researchers from the University of Sydney reported that something as simple as walking may hold the key to reducing the harmful effects of sitting all day.
Exercise can “offset” health risks of sitting all day
American adults spend an average of 6.4 hours sitting down every day, while teenagers spend 8.2 hours. According to numerous studies, people need to be concerned about this as physical inactivity is linked to the development of diseases. (Related: Another disease linked to inactivity: Study finds increased risk of lung, head and neck cancers among the sedentary.)
For their study, the Australian researchers investigated the association of sedentary behavior and physical activity with mortality. They also examined the effects of replacing sitting with standing, doing a physical activity, and sleeping.
For the study, the researchers observed around 149,077 men and women for a period of nine years. They asked the participants to complete questionnaires about how many hours they spent sitting, standing, and sleeping throughout a day, as well as how much time they engaged in light or vigorous physical activity. The physical activity recommendations for Australians are 150-300 minutes of weekly moderate intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of weekly vigorous exercise.
The researchers found that sitting for more than six hours every day and not engaging in any physical activity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death. Meanwhile, participants who met even the lowest requirements for physical activity eliminated their risk of all-cause death. This, however, did not apply to those who sat for more than eight hours every day.
Compared with those who were physically active and sat less than four hours daily, participants who were less active had a significantly higher risk.
Reducing sitting times did not do much for those who remained seated for several hours, but substituting sitting with brisk walking proved effective. The researchers noted that the most effective way of reducing the risk of all-cause death is engaging in vigorous physical activity, although this does not apply to all adults.
Things you can do to stay active
People present various reasons for their lack of physical activity. These include lack of time, lack of resources, or simply lack of motivation. However, adopting an active lifestyle does not mean immediately getting a gym membership card. You can start with baby steps and focus on changing your habits and your mindset first.
To help you become more physically active, here are three things that you can do:
1. Cycle or walk more
Never underestimate the power of walking. It is a simple yet extremely beneficial exercise that you can do any time of the day. Take a quick walk during your breaks or park a bit farther from your workplace so you can engage in this exercise. Alternatively, if you own a bike, consider cycling to work.
2. Move more
Moving more does not mean doing heavy exercises or taking zumba classes. Moving more simply means changing your posture every now and then while you are sitting, standing at 30-minute intervals, and stretching your torso and extremities. It is easy to forget the time when you are preoccupied, so remind yourself to move often.
3. Make the most of your breaks
People may opt to just sit at their desk and scroll through social media during their breaks, but this is wasted opportunity. Instead of remaining in your seat, walk around the building, interact with colleagues, or do a bit of exercise. You can also opt to eat your lunch standing up or use this time to cycle around the block.
Overall, just remember to optimize your daily physical activity and sitting time.