If you’re among the millions of Americans who spend the majority of their day firmly planted on their buttocks, you’ll want to pay special attention: Your inactivity and lack of physical activity is killing you. Yes, your diet probably has a lot to do with your eventual demise as well, but the fact that you’re spending so much time motionless during a 24-hour period is negatively impacting your body. You’ve heard it before, and here it is again — sitting is hurting you.
There are a number of measures you can take to counter the damage done by sitting around all day. If you’re an office worker or someone who’s chained to a desk, doing little exercises and going for short breaks during the day can help. But it’s hard to tell just how much effort you need to make. Everyone’s body is different, and while sitting may be incredibly damaging for one person, another may not see nearly as many complications.
But if you’re not apt to punch out for the day to hit the gym or go play pick-up basketball at the park, you could be in trouble. Do you tend to wake up, sit in traffic, sit all day at work, head home, then lounge in front of the TV? You can and should reverse some of that damage with a reasonable amount of exercise.
Undo the damage of sitting
For the numerically inclined, we now have a set figure as to how long you need to exercise per day to undo the damage of sitting all day. And it’s not too bad — just an hour. An hour of moderate exercise, so nobody’s going to ask you to climb a mountain, or deadlift 500 pounds. All you need to do is get yourself out of a chair and go for a brisk, hour-long walk each day.
This can be made easier if you have a dog that needs attention, or errands to run near where you live. You can naturally incorporate it into your day. The point is actually getting up and giving it a go.
The one-hour figure comes to us via research from the University of Cambridge in the U.K., where an analysis of 16 studies came to the conclusion a mere hour’s worth of walking was enough to significantly increase health outcomes. For those who didn’t get any type of physical activity during the day, the likelihood of a younger death goes up dramatically. According to the analysis, this increases between 28% and 59%.
“There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today’s more sedentary lifestyles,” said Professor Ulf Ekelund from the University of Cambridge, in a press release. “Our message is a positive one: It is possible to reduce — or even eliminate — these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym.”
Tips to cram in more exercise
That’s great news for people who are apprehensive about starting an exercise routine or those who are strapped for time. And the fact that many people don’t have much of a choice in whether or not they have to sit all day didn’t escape the research team. “For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work,” Ekelund said.
Getting an hour’s worth of exercise in daily shouldn’t be too much trouble if you go about it right. You don’t need to set aside an hour after or before work — just incorporate physical activity into your day. If you’re an office worker, check out ‘sweatworking’, or ask about walking meetings. Alter your behavior a bit, and start taking the stairs or go for brisk walks during your breaks.
Sitting all day will come back to get you, given enough time. But research shows that countering it isn’t as hard as you might think. Get creative, and find ways to work physical activity into your day.