There is little doubt that sitting has become a larger part of living in the last 100 years. As sitting has become more popular, there has been a decrease in the low-intensity exercise that would have been necessary to survive in the past. While technology is continuously making our lives easier, it may also be making our lives shorter than necessary. This change in behaviour has caused a change in human physiology, resulting in humans becoming on average more overweight, having a greater risk of heart disease and Type-2 Diabetes and even experiencing depression and anxiety.
Our bodies thrive off of movement. While sitting is relaxing and easy, one must not forget it is not what our bodies were designed to do. Like all other living things, we are built to move!
The recommendations by the Australian Government for exercise can be found below. For the sake of simplicity, 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week is enough for substantial health benefits. However, the benefits do not stop there. There is no ceiling for the amount of benefit exercise can give you, no study has been able to go beyond 120 minutes of exercise a day to see the potential benefits because it’s too difficult to find people to participate.
Movement and exercise have various health benefits. It allows blood, oxygen and nutrients to travel all around own bodies to allow healing, continuous regeneration and growth. It allows us to become stronger or more resilient, being able to adapt to more situations. Exercise is also great for brain function, with the potential to improve memory and enhance learning capability.
We understand that sitting is inevitable and unavoidable in some lifestyles. Driving or using public transport to work and then sitting at a desk from 9-5 is more common now than ever. And after a long day of work people tend to sit and relax with sedentary activities for another few hours.
That being said we have devised 5-strategies to help you increase your physical activity on a daily basis.
- Set a timer for every hour. When it goes off, get up for a 1-minute walk.
- Download the Straighten Up app, which includes posture reminders and a 3-minute exercise program. Here is a 2-minute video on how to use it
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DZ4sc20RuU When you can, make the decision to move.
- Walk or ride some of the way to work. Walk next to the tram a few stops before hopping on, take the stairs or walk up the escalators.
- Work out on your lunch break. Do some pushups, squats or calf raises at your desk or during each commercial break.
You’ll be surprised how much committing to little goals like these will snowball into giving you a more active lifestyle.
It would be ideal if everyone could stand or move during his or her working day, however, this is obviously not possible for most people. Therefore we move into strategies to diminish the impact of sitting for long periods of time. Being aware of your work posture is called ergonomics.
Ergotron is a free website that can help you do just that. Just enter your height and adjust your desk to the appropriate dimensions.
We at Docklands Health are predicting a bigger emphasis by health bodies around sitting times as the body of evidence grows and the importance of standing and moving around becomes a greater concern for public health.
Watch this 5-minute Ted-Ed presentation if you’re still confused.
Research and evidence
In 2011 a study of over 900,000 people revealed that activity levels of 2.5 hours a week of low- intensity exercise (walking or cycling) reduced overall mortality (death) by 19% and this benefit continued with 7 hours per week dropping mortality rates 24%. This study did not just look at heart disease or diabetes or stroke as a cause of death, but death itself is lowered by these staggering percentages.
Another study from 2014 compared over 45,000 men and women over an average of 17 years for cardiovascular (heart) disease risk with low intensity and vigorous intensity exercise. As could have been predicted there was a significant difference in the mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease between those who exercise and those who did not. The interesting part about this article, however, was that men received added benefit if they chose to do vigorous-intensity exercise (running or swimming) as opposed to moderate to low-intensity exercise. While women experience the same decreased risk of cardiovascular disease while doing moderate or vigorous intensity exercises. Looks like men might have to work a little harder!