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Being Active is Good for Your Health, Sitting Too Long Isn't


Just last week, researchers at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences published an editorial online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggesting that authorities rethink how they define physical activity. Dr. Elin Ekblom-Bak and colleagues want the dangers of prolonged sitting to be highlighted.

Evidence for the benefits of regular physical activity for several major health diseases is clear and unanimous. Current public health guidelines promote at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. Being active decreased the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), while improving sleep.

Recent studies have suggested that prolonged bouts of sitting time and lack of whole-body muscular movement can undo some of the benefits even for someone who is considered “in shape.”

In a study published last year that tracked more than 17,000 Canadians for about a dozen years, Peter Katzmarzyk and colleagues found people who sat more had a higher death risk, independently of whether or not they exercised.

The human body is designed to be active. If your work or hobby places you in a sitting position for prolonged periods of time, then do as Dr. Ekblom-Bak says: "It is important to have a five minute break from desk work every 45 minutes. Stand up and move for a few minutes before sitting down and resuming your work.

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To get the most of your exercise program, continue to move throughout the day. If you must sit for prolonged periods, then take short breaks and move.

As noted in the related stories below, activity can improve sleep, aid in maintaining mental acuity, and is good for pregnant women and their infants.

Here are some simple ideas to incorporate into your life.
1. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift.
2. Park in the furthest rather than nearest spot at the mall.
3. When working at your computer get up and wander around for a minute every 30 to 45 minutes.
4. When watching TV, don’t just sit. Get up each commercial and stretch. Use the commercial to do a lunge or two. Use your TV time to do chores like ironing.

Related stories
Adolescent Athletes Enjoy Better Sleep
Exercise May Improve Mental Decline
How Exercise During Pregnancy Benefits Baby
Using a Pedometer For A Reality Check


"Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology?"; British Journal of Sports Medicine Online First 2010; doi 10.1136/bjsm.2009.067702; Elin Ekblom-Bak, Mai-Lis Hellénius, Björn Ekblom

Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer
; Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009;41:998–1005; Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, et al.