Can harmful health effects of sitting be erased with exercise?
A new finding suggests that regular bouts of exercise can counteract the effects of being glued to a computer screen all day in an office cubicle. Researchers looked at the sitting habits of more than 1,300 men and found, as expected, that those who reported sitting the longest — more than 22 hours per week in front of a TV or behind the wheel of a car — were more likely to have increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared to those who sat fewer than nine hours a week. They were also more likely to have a higher body mass index, waist size, and have early signs of diabetes like insulin resistance.
But those increased risks from prolonged sitting were largely erased in those who reported exercising regularly and who were deemed physically fit based on their performance on a treadmill test, according to the study published last Monday in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“Is sedentary behavior the new smoking? Is it an independent risk factor? Based on this study, it’s not,” said study leader Kerem Shuval, a senior research specialist at the American Cancer Society.
A good rule of thumb, he said, is to follow the government’s guidelines on exercise: to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity — brisk walking, dancing, gardening — each week or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity like aerobics, running, or cycling. Muscle-strengthening activities should also be done two days a week.