Most people consider that getting in a few workouts a week and meeting standard exercise guidelines for general health lowers their risk of heart disease and other killers linked to a sedentary lifestyle. But not everyone agrees that the time you spend sweating at the gym is independent of how much time you spend on your tush.
Research shows that people today are on average getting as much exercise as they were 30 years ago when fewer people died of heart disease, but now people are spending significantly more time sitting down. They cite sitting in front of a computer, sitting at a desk, sitting in front of the TV, or sitting in a car.
More sitting combined with higher caloric intake can increase risk of heart disease even with the same amount of exercise. A study published in Applied Physiology showed that men who walked less had a 17 percent reduction in insulin sensitivity after only two weeks. This equates to a higher risk of diabetes. Around 6 percent of people are known to have diabetes today and 35 percent are obese compared to only 1 percent and 13 percent respectively 50 years ago.
The suspected bottom line is that the more time people spend on their butts, the more time they need to spend working out to avoid heart disease and be considered healthy.
Active vs. Sedentary
Instead of counting hours at the gym as a qualifier for calling oneself active, people should look at the amount of time spent sitting versus the amount of time they are getting any physical activity. Mowing the lawn, walking the dog, and gardening are all examples of being physically active that do not fit into the general category of working out. But these activities still matter if you don’t want to adopt the risks of living a sedentary lifestyle.
Here’s another reason to sit less. A University of Washington study found that people gain an average of 16 pounds within eight months of working at a job that consists of mainly sitting at a desk. People who have jobs that require standing up a lot tend to burn 50 percent more calories while on the clock than those who sit.
How to Get More Physical Activity
Quitting your desk job in favor of working retail or having your workstation adjusted to make yourself stand at the office are probably not the best solutions to the problem. However, it is possible to work at a desk and live an active lifestyle. Besides regular trips to the gym or consistent home workouts, you can get active by following some easy guidelines.
For starters, if you can walk somewhere do it. Walk to the store, walk to the park, or just go on a walk. If you live far away from everything, then try parking far away or getting off a bus or subway one stop before you usually do, and walk the rest of the way.
While at your desk during phone calls, stand up. If you have the benefit of your own office, take calls on speakerphone and move around.
Instead of spending breaks in the break room, go for a walk. Try to get some physical activity during lunchtime. Take the stairs. Fire your gardener and your maid, or maybe try to do some of your own cleaning. You can also start washing your car instead of taking it to the car wash. Get a bicycle and use it instead of car, at least on weekends. Don’t sit down in front of the TV. Get a treadmill, march in place, do jumping jacks during commercials, or use the time to stretch out.
These are just some of the ways you can make up for the time spent sitting down without making a career change. If you are currently on medication, be sure to speak with your doctor before changing your exercise program.