Not Just Lack of Exercise, Sitting for Longer Period Is Detrimental to Cardiovascular Health

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Exercise all day
Holding in the tummy up to the spine for ten seconds helps keep belly fat in check. Repeat the exercise 5 times. Reuters

Based on a study, published in online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (7th July 2014), the association among fitness levels, daily exercise, and sedentary behavior were examined.

This work included data from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Sedentary behaviour involves low levels of energy expenditure activities such as sitting, driving, watching television, and reading, among others. The findings suggest that sedentary behaviour may be an important determinant of cardio-respiratory fitness, independent of exercise.

The researchers analysed data from men and women between the ages of 12 and 49 with no known history of heart disease, asthma, or stroke, and measured their average daily physical activity and sedentary behaviour times. Fitness was estimated using a treadmill test, and variables were adjusted for gender, age, and body mass index.

The findings demonstrate that the negative effect of six hours of sedentary time on fitness levels was similar in magnitude to the benefit of one hour of exercise.

Their data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behaviour throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity.

They also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement.

Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, first author of this paper, advised, "So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget."

To stay active and combat sedentary behaviour, UT Southwestern preventive cardiologists recommend taking short walks during lunch and throughout the day, using a pedometer to track daily steps, using the stairs instead of the elevator, hosting walking meetings at work, and replacing a standard desk chair with a fitness ball or even a treadmill desk, if possible.

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