Benefit of exercise depends on how long you sit

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The most extensive review to date on the effects of sedentary behavior (SB) on health and the risk of premature death underscores the urgent need to reduce the time spent being sedentary and increase physical activity.

Titled “Physiology of Sedentary Behavior” and published in Physiological Reviews, this comprehensive examination of sedentary behavior aims to refine public health and clinical practice guidelines.

The focus is shifting from the general recommendation to “exercise more” to a more encompassing message: “sit less, move more, and exercise.”

Recognizing the Role of Sedentary Behavior

Professor David Dunstan, the Head of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Physical Activity Laboratory and the Baker-Deakin Department of Lifestyle and Diabetes, is advocating for a crucial change in healthcare conversations.

He proposes the inclusion of the question, “How much time do you spend sitting?” in discussions about physical activity. The reason behind this is that the benefits of physical activity depend on the amount of time spent sitting.

Many individuals believe that engaging in a short walk, jog, or gym session after a day of desk work is sufficient for good health.

However, Prof. Dunstan clarifies that while these activities offer health benefits, they are influenced by the duration of sitting time.

For instance, if someone sits for extended periods during the day and then exercises afterward, the cumulative sedentary time diminishes the benefits of the workout.

Breaking up sitting time throughout the day interrupts the accumulation of sedentary hours, effectively restarting the body’s engine (muscles) and lowering health risks.

Health Risks Associated with Sedentary Behavior

Sedentary behavior has a lengthy list of recognized health risks, including:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Increased body fat
  3. Poor vascular function
  4. Elevated blood glucose levels
  5. Insulin resistance

Prof. Dunstan hopes that this review will help integrate his evidence-based risk identification matrix into healthcare practices.

The matrix illustrates the interconnection between physical activity, sedentary behavior, and health risk. In essence, it emphasizes that the health risks of excessive sitting are linked to the amount of physical activity a person engages in.

A Balanced Approach to Health

To reduce health risks, the question of sitting time should be considered alongside the level of physical activity.

For those who are physically inactive and spend extended periods sitting, reducing sitting time can serve as an initial step toward becoming more active.

In conclusion, the key takeaway from this comprehensive review is the importance of balancing sedentary behavior with physical activity.

Reducing the time spent sitting and incorporating more movement into daily routines is a prescription for improved health and reduced risk of related health conditions.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about how ultra-processed foods and red meat influence your longevity, and why seafood may boost healthy aging.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The research findings can be found in Physiological Reviews.

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