School and work may have you resigned to a sedentary position for several hours each day. Furthermore, many other daily activities involve sitting, such as eating meals, watching television, or spending time on the computer. You are not alone. Researchers estimate that on average, Americans spend about half of their life in a seated position. Numerous past studies have indicated that extensive sitting results in major health risks, and a new study finds that prolonged sedentary behavior will even supersede the benefits of routine physical activity. In other words, the positive impact of physical activity will not overcome the health risks associated with extensive sedentary behavior.
A recent study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine linked sedentary time to risk of disease incidence and mortality. In fact, the study found that the incidence of disease still increased with a longer sedentary time regardless of the amount of physical activity involved.
“Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”
– Dr. David Alter, the lead researcher of study
While being in a seated position is the default option for many work and school related activities, try considering ways to prevent excessive sedentary behavior throughout the day by actively monitoring your activities. Instead of making drastic changes to your everyday routine, look to incorporate small changes here and there. At work, try adding an extra walk to the lunch hour or during breaks. For students, consider taking brief walking breaks at the end of every hour spent studying or working in an upright standing position for stretches of time. When watching television, take advantage of commercial breaks to stand up and walk around the room. Essentially, include activities to remove yourself from seated positions as much as possible to counterbalance the sedentary behavior already built into your daily schedule.
Image Source: Luc Forsyth
Additionally, while the study indicates physical activity does not overcome the risks of disease associated with sedentary behavior, it can be a means of reducing such behavior. Recall that the recommendations set by the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for adults aged 18-64 include 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week for a total of 150 minutes each week. To further increase your physical activity, try mixing in a few vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, such as jogging, swimming, or playing basketball. Even walking at least 10,000 steps each day can help. Applications available for smartphones can help track your daily activity. The American Heart Association has long advocated for daily physical activity and doing so may just help you reduce your daily sedentary behavior.
While you may not feel the long-term effects of such frequent sedentary behaviors immediately, your future self will certainly reap the benefits if you can make a few adjustments now.
Feature Image Source: People sitting in office on briefing by Kloer Phil, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service