Sitting is the new smoking.
It’s an oft-repeated (and possibly hyperbolic) quote, but the idea is important—prolonged periods of sitting can do serious damage to your body. According to The Mayo Clinic, too much sitting has been linked with a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. Considering that the three constants in many Americans’ day are driving to work, sitting at a desk and plopping on the couch, the revelation that sitting could be slowly killing us is a scary one. However, a recent study has found that reversing the ill effects of excessive sitting might be simpler than we once believed.
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An analysis published in The Lancet drew from 16 separate studies and included data from more than one million men and women. The University of Cambridge summarized the methodology in a press release:
“[Researchers] grouped individuals into four quartiles depending on their level of moderate intensity physical activity, ranging from less than 5 minutes per day in the bottom group to over 60 minutes in the top. Moderate intensity exercise was defined as equating to walking at 3.5 miles/hour or cycling at 10 miles/hour, for example.”
Researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day were sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day. “High levels of moderate intensity physical activity seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time,” the study’s authors wrote. “These results provide further evidence on the benefits of physical activity, particularly in societies where increasing numbers of people have to sit for long hours for work and may also inform future public health recommendations.”
Sixty to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day might sound unachievable for some people, but it’s important to remember that “moderate intensity” exercise can easily be performed outside a gym or away from a track. Researchers designated moderate exercise as moving on foot at 3.5 miles per hour, which for most healthy people is simply a brisk walk. Walking or biking to a destination instead of driving or taking public transportation is a great way to increase the amount of moderate exercise you perform each day while simultaneously cutting down on your daily amount of sitting.
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