Exercise protects against chronic disease and premature death.
Conversely being sedentary, increases the risk against these same diseases and is itself associated with premature death.
It has been estimated that prolonged sitting is responsible for 3.8% of deaths and that every hour of sitting is as harmful as the benefit from twenty minutes of exercise.
A recent meta-study of over 1 million people demonstrated that it takes large volumes (60-75 minutes per day) of moderate to vigorous exercise to offset the risk of prolonged sitting. Even at this level of activity, some risk remains.
The highest risk group is people who spend more than eight waking hours sitting and do not exercise.
The lowest risk group spend less than 4 hours being sedentary and exercise 150 minutes or more per week.
Prolonged sitting carries increased risk for both men and women across
All age groups
Physical activity levels
Simply put, prolonged sitting is very damaging to your health and cannot be offset by exercising alone.
Unfortunately, sedentary behaviour is an epidemic in modern life.
In Canada, a review across all occupations showed that all workers spent a high proportion (65% to 73%) of their day being sedentary.
How is all this sitting damaging our health?
There are at least three mechanisms that drive the health risk of being sedentary:
What we are not doing - every hour of being sedentary is an hour we are not active. Doing “non-exercise” activities for 5 hours per day is equivalent to running for an hour!
Being sedentary is associated with higher blood sugars and increased levels of harmful fatty acids in our bloodstream.
Prolonged sitting leads to chronic inflammation - an inappropriate activation of ourimmune system to attack our bodies. Chronic inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases.
A striking demonstration of how quickly this happens was a Danish study where healthy young men were instructed to limit their daily steps to less than 1500 per day. After just two weeks, they developed:
Metabolic changes suggestive of insulin resistance (higher levels of insulin, glucose and triglycerides)
Loss of muscle
Increased abdominal fat
Combatting this sedentary behaviour through regular intervals of physical activity can significantly reduce these risks and provide health benefits.
A multi-year analysis of 4757 people demonstrated that breaking up sitting with short breaks decreased waist circumference, reduced inflammation marker and improved blood glucose.
What are some ways that I can incorporate movement into my busy life?
For those of you who prefer written content - we have taken the 4+2 Diabetes Reversal Strategy and created a free 18-page guide to teach you the principles behind the strategy.
Exercise of the Week
Progressing Your Training
It is important to progressively add difficulty to your workouts to challenge your body and continue to improve. This can be done by adding weight, reps, sets, and more to your workout over the course of several sessions.
The concept of continuously increasing the demand from your body during exercise is called “progressive overload.”
Here is a classic way to progress by using a rep range:
Perform all of your sets within a certain rep range, and increase the difficulty once the range is exceeded. For example, if the workout calls for 3 sets of 10-15 reps (3 x 10-15) and you were able to perform 16 or more reps on one of your sets, next time, you should increase the resistance by adding weight, band tension, or by making the exercise more challenging (i.e. moving down 1 step on the stairs whilst performing an incline push-up).
If you are bodyweight training and don’t have any added resistance available, consider loading with a backpack or increasing the rep range (i.e. changing the rep range for that exercise from 10-15 reps to 15-20 reps).