Is too much sitting as bad as too little exercise?

January 18, 2010

Sitting all day may significantly boost the risk of lifestyle-related disease even if one adds a regular dose of moderate or vigorous exercise, scientists said Tuesday.

The health benefits of pulse-quickening physical activity are beyond dispute -- it helps ward off cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, among other problems.

But recent scientific findings also suggest that prolonged bouts of immobility while resting on one's rear end may be independently linked to these same conditions.

"Sedentary time should be defined as muscular inactivity rather than the absence of exercise," concluded a team of Swedish researchers.

"We need to consider that we are dealing with two distinct behaviours and their effects," they reported in the British .

Led by Elin Ekblom-Bak of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the scientists proposed a new "paradigm of inactivity physiology," and urged fellow researchers to rethink the definition of a .

They point to a recent study of Australian adults showing that each daily one-hour increase in sitting time while upped the rate of in women by 26 percent -- regardless of the amount of moderate-to-intensive exercise performed.

Thirty minutes of daily decreased the risk by about the same percentage, suggesting that being a couch potato can cancel out the benefits of hitting treadmill or biking, for example.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of three or more factors including , abdominal obesity, or .

New research is required to see if there is a causal link between being sedentary and these conditions and, if so, how it works, the researchers said.

One candidate is lipoprotein lipase, or LPL, an enzyme that plays a crucial role in breaking down fat within the body into useable forms.

Recent research has shown that LPL activity was significantly lower in rats with restrained muscle activity -- as low as one tenth of the levels of rats allowed to walk about.

The LPL level during such activity "was not significantly different from that of rats exposed to higher levels of exercise," the scientists reported.

"This stresses the importance of local muscle contraction per se, rather than the intensity of the contraction."

These studies suggest that people should not only exercise frequently, but avoid sitting in one place for too long, they said.

Climbing stairs rather than using an elevator, taking five-minute breaks from a desk job, and walking when possible to do errands rather than driving were all recommended.

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2 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2010
In the country of Utopia, their computer operators are obliged to take a fifteen minute break from their work every hour.

Do you live there?
5 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2010
So, essentially, in my job (where I spend a large amount of time sitting, using a computer & phone, and pouring over claim files), I may be in better health if I were to have my desk raised and spend the majority of time standing whilst I do my work?

As I stand, the majority of bodily muscles between my shoulders and feet will be required to constantly be at work, particularly the spine, as my top half moves around and I am constantly having to make miniscule muscular readjustments to maintain balance.

With a stool for the occasional break when it gets a bit much, I reckon that's an exercise regime I can fit into my busy day!

Bring on the new ergonomic office.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2010
Can anyone point out to the Australian study? I hate it when a study is mentioned, the quoted results don't make perfect sense, and I can't find the original.
4 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2010
Depending upon the orientation of your 'standing' it could help.
However, usually, standing and bent forward puts a continuous strain on back/shoulder/neck muscles.
This is not good.
It is necessary to frequently relax those muscles to ensure adequate blood circulation through them.
Like many things in life,
it is most important in how you do it rather than simply trying to do it.
3.5 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2010
I wonder if time spent sleeping has been considered?
4 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2010
I kinda want one of these stand up desks... if the height was just right it might almost be more productive.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2010
Standing desks are actually growing in popularity, and I've seen a few corporations using them over the years.

I stand when I'm doing most work, but I've found I perform better at certain computer-based tasks while sitting... I suppose I don't feel as "connected" to the computer when I'm trying to stand and type at the same time.
not rated yet Mar 05, 2010
So let me get this straight. Being motionless for long periods is unhealthy. Then I'd better not plan on dying.

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