Exercise Eliminates the Harmful Effects of Sitting

exercise decreases risk of mortalityGet up and move! That’s the advice of research that found people who watch TV for 5 or more hours a day were much more likely to die from a blood clot than those who watched TV for less than 2.5 hours a day. Exercise also helps lower your blood sugar and can decrease your risk of diabetes.

But what if you work and have to sit all day? Can exercise decrease or eliminate the harmful effects of sitting? That’s the focus of a recent study published in the British Journal, Lancet. These researchers investigated the effects of both sitting and exercise on mortality and found that increased sitting is associated with an increased likelihood of dying. People who sat for more than 8 hours a day and exercised for 5 minutes each day were 27% more likely to die than people who exercised more or sat less. As you can see from the table below, the risk of mortality decreases the more you exercise. Moderate exercise abolished the detrimental effect of sitting for 8 or more hours a day.

Effect of Exercise Time and Sitting on Percent Increased Chance of Death*

Time Spent Exercising Each Day Less than 4 hours (Sitting Time Per Day)4 to 6 hours (Sitting Time Per Day)6 to 8 hours (Sitting Time Per Day)More than 8 hours (Sitting Time Per Day)
5 MinutesNo effect8%9%27%
25 to 35 minutesNo effect4%6%12%
50 to 65 minutesNo effect5%3%10%
60 to 75 minutesNo effectNo effect1%4%

*Adapted from Table 2 in Lancet published online July 27, 2016;

Examples of moderate exercise in this study were walking at a fast pace (3.5 miles/hour) or bicycling at a rate of 10 miles/hour. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start exercising gradually by including walking, biking, jogging, swimming or any additional movement in your daily routine.

Here are some tips to increase your level of activity during the day:

  • At work, get up and walk every hour, if possible
  • When shopping, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to the store
  • Meet with colleagues to walk and talk, if possible

Sitting less and incorporating exercise into your schedule may increase your lifespan!

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