An hour of walking or cycling a day could eliminate the increased risk of death for people who spend eight hours a day sitting down, according to a major study.
We have long known that high amounts of sedentary behaviour has been associated with increasing a persons chance of developing several chronic conditions and in the worse case, death. We also knew that sitting down for extended periods, such as at a desk in an office, had a significant role to play in the development of repetitive strain injuries, biomechanical adaptations due to sitting compromised in positions for long days, and in developing diseases of metabolic derangement as a result of a lack of movement.
However, until now, it was unclear how much physical activity was needed to reduce, or even eliminate the detrimental effects of sitting down for more than 8 hours a day.
In a fantastic meta-analysis study published in the Lancet on the 27th July. 16 studies, involving over a million people, were evaluated to establish the link between sitting time, physical activity levels and the reported effect estimates for several types of mortality including, cardiovascular and cancer.
We can therefore establish a significant comparison between mortality rates from sitting for extended periods with low levels of physical activity, and with the death rate from something as well researched say as Smoking.
We all know now how dangerous smoking is for our health. Cigarette companies are no longer allowed to advertise in the UK, and packs of cigarettes come with shocking images of disease and death. So why is the government not doing more to educate us on both the importance of physical activity and the mortal dangers of sedentary behaviour.
Physical inactivity is associated with more than five million deaths worldwide each year and those who do not get any exercise have a greater chance of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
The Lancet study shows that those who are entirely inactive (<5min of activity per day) and sit at desk for more than 8hrs a day are 27% more likely to die from the above conditions. Where activity levels equalled 25-35min per day the associated risk was 12%. Even exercising for 50-60 minutes per day resulted in a 10% increase in the risk of mortality if 8 or more hours of that same day was spent sitting in a chair. It was only when daily activity was between 60-75 minutes per day that the risk of all-cause mortality was significantly (4%) attenuated.
However, the daily 60-75 minutes identified by this study is much more than the 150 minutes of total physical activity per week recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
With the Olympics in Rio less than a week away, an associated Lancet study also postulated “scarce” progress in increasing worldwide exercise levels in the quadrennium since the last Olympics in London. It established that 90% of countries studied had a state policy on the promotion of physical activity. However, according to the WHO, 23% of adults and 80% of children were still not meeting the 150min per week minimum recommendation to mitigate all-cause mortality.
In order to effectively change the state of worldwide all-cause mortality, we cannot just leave it to the government to react to the situation once it has become a much bigger problem – much like smoking and cancer. If long-periods of sitting is significantly detrimental to ones health then as fitness professionals we must be at the forefront of educating the improvement of a healthy work lifestyle. We must also do our very best to promote the standards set by this study to those who are required to stay seated as part of their employment.
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