What is the downside of jobs that require prolonged sitting?

Prior studies have shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of,

  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • possibly dementia

The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or 150 minutes of moderate exercise, each week.

The CDC promotes at least 30minutes of exercise a day.

Does weekend exercise offset sitting all week?

  • A recent study published this month showed that exercise on the weekends can offset sitting all week
  • The study included data on the self-reported exercise habits and overall health of 63,591 adults in England and Scotland from 1994 to 2012

Participants were broken down into 4 different categories

  • No exercise at all
  • exercises less than 150 minutes
  • those who exercises just on the weekends also referred to as weekend warriors
  • Those who exercised regularly

The researchers found that weekend warriors had about a,

  • 40% lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease
  • 30% lower risk of overall death
  • 18% lower risk of death due to cancer

This is good news for those of us who sit for prolonged periods during the work week.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the data from this weekend warrior study.

  • Death was studied not the incidence of disease such as diabetes.
  • We do not know whether exercising just on the weekends will decrease our risk of diabetes.
  • Most weekend warriors took part in sports activities.
  • These types of exercises are generally more rigorous than other types exercise which may help explain why weekend warriors had the same risk of death as those who exercised more during the week.
  • The bottom line is that some exercise is better than nothing.

How many people exercise?

Despite the known health benefits of exercise, about 24% of American adults engaged in no physical activity when they had the free time in 2013.

Another study showed that just an hour of exercise a day can also offset the risks of sitting all day. The study was published in the journal of Lancet.

making time to exercise

Reference Ekelund, U et al. Physical activity attenuate the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality: A harmonized meta-analysis of data from more than one million men and women. The Lancet; 28 July 2016

Another article published in Diabetes Care showed that people who stood or walked for 5 minutes every 30 minutes had a higher rate of metabolism compared to those who sat throughout the day.

It is difficult to start exercising but once you make it a habit and incorporate exercise into your lifestyle it will become second nature.

  •  Start small and increase the time as well as the intensity when you feel more comfortable

Exercises that can be performed at your desk to offset prolonged sitting

Chair exercise

  • Isometric exercises also are known as static strength training allows you to exercise without people noticing you are exercising. There is no visible movement of the joints when muscles are called upon to tighten.
  • These exercises should be done in repetition. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times
  • Core strengthening exercises-tighten your abdominal muscles, hold for tens seconds and release. The same can be done with the gluteal and the pelvic floor areas.
  • Place a ball in between your when you are sitting forward in a chair, squeeze and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Leg lifts-lift legs under the desk and hold up in the air.

Exercise that can be performed in a cubicle or small space to offset prolonged sitting

  • Squats. It is estimated that 70 calories can be burned in 15 mutes when performing squats.
  • Stretch exercises
  • Heel lifts -stand and lift the balls of your feet up and hold.
  • Sit on a large exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise bicycle can help increase balance and strengthen your abdominal muscles.
  • Lift a heavy book over your head.
  • When you talk on the phone make a point of doing some exercises such as marching in place.
  • Consider isometric exercises. Suck in your abdomen or tighten your buttock area for 30 seconds.
  • Yoga poses are also great suggestions.
  • Make an effort to stand. Sitting burns 100 calories an hour, standing burns 125 calories an hour.

Considerations for lunch time breaks and commuting that can help offset prolonged sitting

  • Use part of your lunch hour to walk rather than sit.
  • Use your breaks to walk the hallways or go outside and walk around the building.
  • Take the stairs as much as possible.
  • Take the bicycle to work, a 20-minute ride can burn 200 calories.

Desk exercises and video

When do you exercise?


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