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Is Exercising Enough to Stop You Living a Sedentary Life?

06/02/2015 | By Freedom Health Insurance
There is much evidence which shows that sitting down for too long is bad for your health. Living a sedentary lifestyle where we spend a long time sitting in front of a TV, working on a computer or commuting is a common theme of the modern world.

Sitting down for long periods of time can impact on our metabolism, affecting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, break down body fat and control blood pressure. (1)

A research study (2011) showed that people who sat down the longest had a higher risk of diabetes (by 112%), of cardiovascular events (by 147%) and an increase of the death rate from any cause (by 49%) compared with people who sit less. (1)

Another study (reported in 2014) found that there is also a 21% increase in the risk of dying from cancer for post-menopausal women who sat down for 11 hours or more a day versus those who sat for 4 hours or less. (2)

There is no surprise then to see many governments and professional bodies around the world issuing physical activity guidelines. The UK Department of Health advises that adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity over a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity over the same period. (3)

However this is not enough – “if someone goes to the gym or walks for 30 to 45 minutes a day, but sits down the rest of the time, then they are still described as having a ‘sedentary lifestyle’”, according to professor Stuart Biddle (now at Victoria University, Australia), who led the national guidelines on reducing sitting. (1)

This is why the UK Department of Health also recommends that "all adults should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods". (3)

The NHS offers some tips to help reduce sitting time. For adults, for example, it recommends setting a reminder to get up every 30 minutes, to try to work while standing or just to take a walk break every time we take a coffee or tea break. There are things that most of us could do in a workplace such as standing or walking around while on the phone or walking to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling. (1)

But there are things we should try to do outside work as well, such as standing on a train or bus, or taking the stairs instead of the lift, or why not replace some TV time for more active hobbies or tasks. (1)

Sitting less may help us reduce the risk of several chronic conditions and even help us live longer. As one study bluntly puts it: sitting and watching TV for 6 hours per day could reduce the life expectancy of a person by 4.8 years. (2)
1.       NHS Choices, 2014. Why sitting too much is bad for your health, 14th October. Available here
2.       Dillner, L., 2014. Is sitting down bad for my health?, The Guardian, 15 September. Available here
3., 2014. Physical activity guidelines for adults (19-64 years) [PDF]. Available here