Most Americans don’t get enough physical activity, even though they are well aware that it is “good for their health.” A new study, however, reveals that even those individuals who do spend a grueling 30 to 60 minutes in the gym for 5 or more days per week, may not be getting enough activity to ward off many chronic diseases.
It is astonishing news, especially if you are an avid gym-goer, who has a job that keeps your rear-end firmly planted in a chair, at a desk, glued to the phone or computer for 8 hours or more each day. The study was published in the February 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition corresponding with the conclusion found in a study published at the end of 2011 by the American Institute for Cancer Research.
The initial study reviewed more than 200 cancer studies worldwide and found that physical activity reduces the risk of breast, colon and endometrial cancer by as much as 30 percent. Some evidence also suggests that routine exercise can have an impact on your risk of lung, prostate and ovarian cancers. Of course, these same cancers have also been dubbed “sitting diseases” due the increased risk that occurs from a lack of movement.
In another study of more than 120,000 subjects, researchers found that the more time people sat around, the greater their risk of premature death became. Even individuals who make an effort to participate in physical activity, such as spending time in the gym, playing tennis or rollerblading, but rush home to sit in front of the TV or head to the office to sit, are at-risk.
Tim Morley, D.O., Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Manhattan and a preventive health expert recommends movement throughout the day, “Many people sit for an average of 9 1/2 hours per day. If you find you have not left your seat in an hour, get up and walk around – you have been sitting for too long.” Further studies have indicated that sitting for prolonged periods of time increases the risk of colon, endometrial and ovarian cancers – all the more reason to take walks around the office throughout the work day.
The February 2012 study concluded not only does sitting increase your risk for cancer, it contributes to high blood pressure, poor weight management and induces stress. Unfortunately, the study did find that the current recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days per week, as prescribed by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PGA), does not combat the risk of disease if 7 hours or more of sitting is also part of your daily regimen. There is a silver-lining to this dark cloud – the study did not compare the effects of vigorous physical activity.
There is evidence that suggest vigorous activity on a routine basis can combat these effects despite the hours you may have to sit at your desk each day. The PGA suggests that 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like running is comparable to 150 minutes of moderate activity, like walking. Now you have two reasons to kick your workouts into high gear: better weight management (in less time) and disease prevention.
If running or other high-intensity activities seem impossible, you can always order the Trek Desk: a desk that attaches to a treadmill to keep you moving all day long. If your office space won’t fit such a unique solution or a $500 desk plus your favorite brand of treadmill is not in the budget, there are some cost-free solutions to reducing your risk of disease:
- Take the scenic route. If you have only a short journey to the bathroom, water cooler or copy machine, consider taking a longer route or visiting these essentials on the other side of the office if alternates are available. The regular time out of the chair could save your life.
- Walk and talk. If you spend hours on the phone, forward your calls to your cell phone and take a stroll while you chat. You burn calories and save your health with every phone call.
- Take the stairs. This is not revelation – choose the stairs over the elevator every time.
- Set a timer. No matter what part of your day keeps you from moving up and about, set a timer for 60 minutes. When it goes off that is your reminder to stroll through the house or pay a visit to your co-worker’s cubicle on the other side of the office. Whatever you choose to do when you get up is your choice, but you must get up!
- Park in the back. Another classic oldie, but a goldie. Park as far from the front door as possible – every little bit of extra movement counts.
- Converse face to face. In the era of email and instant message, it is easy to get into the habit of conducting conversations with people across the hall without ever leaving your chair. Seize the opportunity to get up and get in some face time with you co-worker.