Researchers are discovering that regular exercise does not reduce the health risks brought on by a sedentary lifestyle. But you are an active woman, you hit the gym in the morning or fit in a jog when you can. You have nothing to worry about right?
Not so fast say researchers out of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We spend the vast majority of our time not exercising,” said Lynette Craft, lead author of recently released study and an adjunct assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University. “It’s important to think about how you spend your entire day and what you’re doing in your non-exercise time.”
The study set out to analyze whether individual women who exceeded the government’s guidelines for 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly were less sedentary than women who did not achieve the guidelines. The study monitored 91 women aged between 40-75 years, in good health, with the assistance of activity monitors worn on average 10 hours per day.
The study found that even though these women spent an average of 146 minutes per week engaged in moderate to vigorous activity they still spent a majority of their waking hours (63%) sitting. Sustained exercise averaged only 2% of their day. In effect, these “active women” sat for periods that exceeded the time they spent sleeping.
The researches stressed the importance of exercise however they also sounded the alarm bell that a trip to the gym is only the start of a healthy day. “Even if you’re exercising regularly, you still have an elevated risk compared to non-sitters,” according to Craft.
Dr. Toni Yancey, professor of health policy and management at the School of Public Health UCLA believes we need to look at making changes in our work and home environments. “Humans are by nature sedentary. It’s not that suddenly people have become lazy and stupid,” she said, “What’s changed very much is our environment.” We commute for long periods, sitting,” she said. “Even at the workplace, we use email instead of getting up to talk with a person. We don’t shop; we order things over the Internet.” Dr. Yancey, has changed her environment at work using TrekDesk Treadmill Desks allowing employees to walk while they work and fitting in breaks designed to keep employees moving.
Dr. Craft also urged people to stand up and move whenever possible.
“Set a timer so once an hour you’ll get up,” she suggested. “Stand up when you’re on the phone. Get up during commercial breaks when you’re watching television. Stand while you’re folding the laundry.”
The message is clear. Once you leave the gym in the morning make sure you stay moving throughout most of the day.