Did you make a New Year’s resolution to be more physically active? Well, here’s some news that may get you up and moving more. Researchers found that sitting for long periods every day can significantly increase your chance of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and of dying prematurely. And that’s even if you exercise regularly.
By examining 47 prior studies, Canadian researchers discovered that too much physical inactivity leads to a higher risk of serious illness from all diseases and premature death. However, the greatest health risk you may face from sitting too much is the development of type 2 diabetes. Prolonged sitting increases your risk by 90%.
Studies also showed that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to an increase in breast, colon, uterine and ovarian cancers. And another study determined that if you sit for less than 8 hours a day, your risk of being hospitalized is actually lowered by 14%.
The study defines prolonged sitting as sitting for 8 to 12 hours or more a day. Sedentary activities include driving, watching TV, reading, and using the computer and other electronic devices.
According to Canadian guidelines, sedentary activities should only comprise about 4 to 5 hours a day. However, in the U.S., we have no guidelines about sedentary behaviors. Instead the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans issued by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states adults need to get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity each week. This weekly physical activity recommendation is in addition to any normal light-intensity activities done daily, such as self-care, standing, lifting lightweight objects, and walking to perform daily duties like light housework, taking out the trash and walking into the office from the parking lot.
However, while daily exercise is good compared to the higher health risks from little to no exercise a day, this study suggests that exercising for only 15 to 20 minutes a day doesn’t completely undo all the harm of having a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the day.
How to Stay More Active
So how can you reduce your sedentary behaviors? Here are some things you can do to become more active in your daily life:
- Gradually reduce your time sitting each day by 15 to 20 minutes per day. Aim for 2 to 3 fewer hours of sitting over a 12-hour day.
- Take a 1 to 3 minute break every half hour during the day to stand or walk around.
- Stand or exercise while watching TV.
- Modify your work space so you can alternate between sitting and working and standing and working.
- Stand or walk around while talking on the phone.
- Have standing or walking meetings with your colleagues.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Carry groceries instead of using a shopping cart at the supermarket.
- Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling him/her.
- Take the long route to the restroom at work.
For more information on how you can reduce your sedentary lifestyle, refer to this flyer from the American College of Sports Medicine.
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Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.