We all know physical activity is important for our health. It helps us maintain a healthy body weight, keeps muscles and bones strong, and promotes good cardiovascular health. However, we don’t usually hear about the negative aspects of inactivity. A recent study which looked at sedentary (inactive) behavior and cardiovascular health found evidence that “suggests that sedentary behavior could contribute to excess morbidity and mortality,” or a greater chance of illness and death. So, not only is physical activity important for our health, but not being physically active can actually be very harmful.
According to the American Heart Association study, “it is estimated that adults spend 6 to 8 hours per day in sedentary behavior, including sitting, TV viewing, screen time, and computer use.” And that is only an estimate. For many people, the time spent inactive is probably higher than this study suggests. This is concerning since the study found that sedentary behavior could be a risk factor for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also found a strong correlation between all causes of mortality and greater time spent sitting. However, regular physical activity helps reduce these risks.
A study in The Lancet looked at the associations of sedentary behavior and physical activity with mortality. The study found that “high levels of moderate intensity physical activity (i.e., about 60–75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time.” In other words, those who were more active and spent less time in sedentary positions lived longer than those who were less active and more sedentary.
While there are no concrete guidelines for how to incorporate daily physical activity, a good starting point is making sure you are active for at least 45-60 minutes per day. If hitting the gym for an hour after work every day seems impossible, try finding time throughout the day to be active. For those who work at jobs where they sit most of the time, take a break every hour and walk around for 5 minutes or so, stand up and walk around when taking phone calls, or take a long walk at lunch. The important thing is to sit less and move more!