Exercise or not, too much sitting can be deadly

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Are you sitting down for this? A new study has found that even with exercise, a sedentary lifestyle still raises our risk for disease and early death. That may not be the best news, but at least it can be motivation to spend a little more time on your feet each day. While we’ve long known that a sedentary lifestyle without exercise is a cause for serious concern, resulting in higher mortality rates, heart disease and more, exercise has always seemed a way of offsetting the problem. A recent study, however, has found to really make up for sitting all day, you need to…not sit all day.

Exercise and no sitting? Give me a break!

According to a recent University of Toronto meta-analysis (a study that looks at the results of other studies) and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a sedentary lifestyle, regardless of exercise, increases mortality rates and raises the risk of cancer and cardiovascular problems, like heart disease and stroke.

Don’t worry, this isn’t all fire and brimstone coming out of the scientific community; it’s just new evidence supporting a refinement of what we view as a healthy lifestyle.

Says lead author and University of Toronto PhD candidate, Avi Biswas, “We need further research to better understand how much physical activity is needed to offset the health risks associated with long sedentary time and optimize our health.”

The exercise imperative

Of course, walking 24 hours a day isn’t any kind of solution while we wait for new studies to help answer the questions raised by the current one. It’s important to minimize the time you spend sitting, but exercising is still an essential part of health.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the effects of exercise capacity using a measure called a MET (metabolic equivalent of task) on overall mortality rates.

An MET is basically how much exertion your body requires to perform a given task or exercise. Walking at a moderate speed takes about 3.5 METs. The higher the MET you’re able to perform, the more fit you generally are. By comparing METs in men to mortality rates from any cause (cancer, heart disease and so on), researchers discovered that by increasing exercise capacity by a single digit, a subject could lower his risk of dying by 12% over the next 6 years.

That’s for each single increase, meaning you could lower the risk by 24% by achieving 2 METs more, or 60% with 5 METs. You can see just how important exercise can be!

What you can do about sitting too much

When it comes to mitigating a sedentary lifestyle, it can be surprisingly easy to make an impact on how you go about it, even if you have a desk job. And you don’t necessarily have to buy a stand-up desk either.

The first thing to do is track how much time you spend sitting in an average day. Once you have some hard data, it’s a lot easier to make changes. Try standing for a few minutes every half hour. If you work in front of a computer, it’s a good chance to rest your eyes at the same time.

When you’re in front of the TV at home, don’t sit during the commercial breaks. Try walking around the house, doing some dishes, or even some real exercise. Exercises to improve your core, like yoga, take mere minutes and can be done pretty much anywhere.

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