Monday, February 2, 2015

Too Much Sitting Can Be Deadly – Even if You Exercise

Regular exercise doesn’t erase the higher risk of serious illness or premature death that comes from sitting too much each day, a new review reveals.

Combing through 47 prior studies, Canadian researchers found that prolonged daily sitting was linked to significantly higher odds of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dying.

Even if the study participants exercised regularly, the accumulated evidence still showed worse health outcomes for those who sat for long periods, the researchers said. However, those who did little or no exercise faced even higher health risks.

“We found the association relatively consistent across all diseases. A pretty strong case can be made that sedentary behavior and sitting is probably linked with these diseases,” said study author Aviroop Biswas, a PhD candidate at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University health Network.

“When we’re standing, certain muscles in our body are working very heard to keep us upright,” added Biswas, offering one theory about why sitting is detrimental. “Once we sit for a long time…our metabolism is not as functional, and the inactivity is associated with a lot of negative effects.”

The research was published January 19, in the online issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

About 3.2 million people die each year because they are not active enough, according to the World Health Organization, making physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide.

Among the studies reviewed by Biswas and his team, the definition of prolonged sitting ranged from 8 to 12 hours per day or more. Sitting, or sedentary activities ubiquitous with sitting such as driving, using the computer or watching TV, shouldn’t comprise more than 4-5 hours of a person’s day, Biswas said, citing guidelines issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The biggest health hazard stemming from prolonged sitting, according to the review, was a 90% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Specific links were also noted between sedentary behavior and breast, colon, uterine and ovarian cancers.

Dr. Joshua Septimus, a clinical associate professor of internal medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, praised the new research, saying it “give us more data to help counsel our patients.”

“The idea that we could exercise for 15 or 20 minutes a day and that could completely erase any harms of a sedentary lifestyle for the other 23 hours a day is just too hopeful,” Septimus noted. “This showed us that yes, there is some benefit to physical activity … it’s not enough.”

My Take:
This is a difficult pill to swallow. I have always preached the benefits of daily exercise and counseled my patients that Activities of Daily Living (ADL) don’t count as exercise. While there is still some truth to that statement, ADL are apparently vital to health and longevity.

I highly recommend any of the new activity devices that monitor daily activity. Please review my blog “Apple Watch Takes Tech Giant into New Territory” posted September 19, 2014. These devices record sleep patterns, miles walked per day, even hours of sitting.

Fortunately, my job keeps me from sitting more than a few minutes at a time. I sit to record my patient notes, respond to patient e-mails, review current research and write my blog. Honestly, I have trouble sitting for any length of time. I can’t sit through a football game or a movie without getting up and doing something around the house. Although I am teased about it constantly, I think movement is natural to humans.

The Bottom Line:
Try to adopt some of my restless habits of movement. Don’t believe that it replaces daily exercise, but is another vital aspect to health.

Source: January 19, 2015 National Institutes of Health

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