Want to dramatically improve your health? Stop sitting.


Tired of hearing the bad news about skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates reported almost daily? Well, you can do something about it - quickly and in a big way.

If I had to pick one message from the Exercise is Medicine meeting last week to pass on, it would be the need to decrease inactivity. Did you catch that? DECREASE INACTIVITY. Not INCREASE ACTIVITY - that is a message we hear all the time -  and one I absolutely want to continue to stress. By no means are we getting around the need to exercise to improve overall health.


But, there is a growing body of evidence that inactivity - essentially sitting all day - is a major risk factor for chronic disease. Surprisingly, the biggest offenders of this inactive lifestyle can be regular exercisers. Do you know anyone that goes to the gym for 30 minutes and then sits for the remaining 15 1/2 hours of time spent awake each day? This describes today's active couch potato, someone getting regular exercise in an otherwise very sedentary lifestyle. Research has established a direct association between amount of sedentary time and metabolic risk, and this effect exists regardless of the amount of vigorous physical activity an individual engages in. While the jury is still out, decreasing inactivity may be just as important to our health as getting our daily exercise. Put another way, 10 hours of inactivity is as harmful to our health as 30 minutes of exercise is protective!

The good news is the problem of too much sitting is an easy one to fix, even for the exercise averse: simply stand up and walk! In a recent study from Australia, one group of overweight individuals was asked to sit uninterrupted for 5 hours, while another group was asked to sit for 5 hours but with 2 minute breaks of light walking every 20 minutes. A third group sat for 5 hours but with 2 minute breaks of moderate intensity walking every 20 minutes. The individuals that interrupted the sitting with walking breaks had reduced glucose and insulin responses after a meal, or reductions in strong indicators for cardiovascular disease. The observed metabolic improvements occurred whether the individuals did light or moderate intensity walking.


Take home message: get your 30 minutes of exercise (aim for 150 minutes every week) and reduce inactivity by standing, walking, and simply moving more throughout the day. Two minutes is all it takes. Someday maybe we will all use these. In the mean time, here are some ideas for decreasing inactivity at work.

**How long do you sit uninterrupted every day? It is probably more than you think.**


Improve your health by thinking like a toddler. They never stop moving.
Note: if anyone is interested in the research I've referenced here, please let me know. I will try to add in the links but having trouble with them at the moment.

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