Why exercise doesn’t counteract sitting

  • Nov 30, 2023
  • By THR1VE Collective
  • 0 Comment

We hit the gym, or head to a yoga class and consider we’re healthy and getting our exercise in for the day. But is this enough?

walking up stairsStudies have shown that when we’re sedentary for long periods at work, we’re at risk of premature death and also the likelihood of disease, no matter how much exercise we do! Even if you’re training heavily, if you’re getting no movement the rest of the time, the negative effects of sitting can still impact your body. With more time spent in front of our screens, and the advent of technology doing so much for us in our daily lives, many adults are spending the predominant part of their waking hours being sedentary.

Physical inactivity is now the 4th leading risk factor for death, globally.

According to a World Health Organisation report, physical inactivity accounted for 6% of deaths globally, by causing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers. A UK Medical Journal estimates this at 5.3 million preventable deaths globally each year. To put it into context, lung cancers cause 1.6 million (2.9%) deaths per year and HIV causes 1.5 million (2.7%) deaths per year, and these are two killers we hear about frequently. In effect sitting is worse for us than smoking. The statistics are staggering!

So how much exercise do we need to counteract the negative effects sitting is taking on our health?

Even with 1 – 1.25 hours a day (7 – 8.75 hours per week) moderate to vigorous activity, you’re still at risk of developing health issues, such as lower back pain, postural issues, muscle atrophy and diabetes. Our bodies are designed to move, and they thrive with activity.

Experts explain that we should be aiming to sit for only 4 hours per day.

Feels a little overwhelming to imagine that, right? However, there are very simple ways you can get more movement into your day, making incremental changes over time as you get used to more activity. It’s the cumulative effect of sitting for hours that we need to interrupt with movement to avoid the health risks.

Let’s get moving!

What can we do to get more active?

- Stand while we’re commuting on the train.
- Take frequent movement breaks by walking around the office every ½ hour.
- When on phone calls get up and march on the spot, walk, do squats or stretches.
- Get up and chat to a colleague rather than sending an email.
- Invest in a stand-up desk that lets you elevate your work platform so you can stand for periods of your day (find out more about the benefits of a stand up desk)

We need to re-think how we live and work and small changes do more to reverse the negative impact of sitting, than spending 30mins at the gym. So, what will you do to get moving? Every little bit counts!

For more tips on getting active during your day, check out “The Sitting Epidemic” by Daniel Angelini.