Health risks of sitting:
Prolonged time spent in sedentary, which typically involves sitting or lying down for extended periods with minimal physical activity has been reported with adverse health outcomes. These effects can manifest both in the short term and accumulate over time, leading to long-term health consequences. Now according to the sedentary behavior research network let’s take a look at some of the potential health risks effects of sedentary lifestyle:
- Obesity: prolonged time spent in sedentary behaviors can lead to weight gain and decreasing metabolic health, as it is associated with lower energy expenditure. Over time, much sitting can result in obesity, which is a risk factor for numerous chronic conditions.
- Cardiovascular disease: Extended periods of inactivity have been linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease and risk of chronic disease.
- Type 2 diabetes: a prolonged amount of time spent in a sedentary lifestyle can result in metabolic problems and insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Poor circulation: Prolonged sitting can lead to reduced blood flow, which can cause blood to pool in the legs, increasing the risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
- Musculoskeletal issues: Sitting for extended periods can lead to poor posture, muscle imbalances, and a weakened musculoskeletal system. This can result in chronic pain, especially in the lower back, neck, and shoulders.
- Mental health: A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an enhanced risk of developing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Cognitive decline: Studies have suggested that sedentary behavior may be linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.
- Cancer risk: Research has shown that prolonged sedentary time may be associated with a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast, colon, and endometrial cancer.
To mitigate these health risks, it is essential to incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine. This can include activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, or strength training. Additionally, it is important to take breaks from sitting throughout the day, even if it’s just standing up or stretching for a few minutes.
What are the differences between sedentary and inactivity and light activity?
Sedentary behavior, inactivity, and light-intensity activity represent different levels of physical exertion and energy expenditure. Understanding the differences between these terms is important when considering the impact of various activities on overall health and well-being.
- Sedentary behavior: This refers to activities that involve very low levels of energy expenditure, typically while sitting or lying down. Examples include watching TV, using a computer, or reading. These behaviors require little movement and minimal caloric expenditure. Sedentary behavior is generally characterized by an energy expenditure of 1.0-1.5 metabolic equivalent units (METs).
- Inactivity: Inactivity refers to a lack of physical activity, particularly in the context of not meeting the recommended guidelines for moderate to vigorous physical activity. An inactive person may not be sedentary all the time but is not engaging in enough regular physical activity to achieve the associated health benefits.
- Light activity: Light activity involves slightly more energy expenditure than sedentary behavior, but it is not as intense as moderate or vigorous physical activity. Examples include slow walking, stretching, light housekeeping, or gentle yoga. Light activities generally have an energy expenditure of 1.6-2.9 METs.
How does breaking sedentary time with physical activity help our health?
Breaking up sedentary time with physical activity has numerous benefits for our health, both physically and mentally. Here are some ways incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help improve your health:
- Improved cardiovascular health: Engaging in physical activity helps increase blood circulation, which reduces the risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Better weight management: Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight by increasing energy expenditure and promoting a balanced metabolism.
- Enhanced mental health: Physical activity is known to release endorphins, which are natural mood elevators, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
- Increased muscle strength and flexibility: Engaging in regular exercise can help improve muscle strength, balance, and flexibility, reducing the risk of injuries and falls.
- Better blood sugar control: Physical activity can help regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helping manage the condition in those already diagnosed.
- Improved cognitive function: Physically active people have been shown to have enhanced cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health, possibly delaying the onset of
Can physical activity help to decrease or even eliminate the negative impact of prolonged sitting time?
Physical activity can help to decrease the negative impact of prolonged sitting time, but it may not completely eliminate it. Engaging in regular physical activity can counteract some of these adverse effects.
According to the american college of sports medicine, adults should aim for:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or an equivalent combination of both. This can be broken down into shorter sessions, such as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups, performed on two or more non-consecutive days per week.
- Flexibility exercises for all major muscle-tendon groups on two or more days per week.
- Neuromotor exercises (also known as functional fitness training or balance and coordination exercises) for older adults to improve balance, agility, and proprioception.
While these guidelines primarily focus on the recommended levels of physical activity, the physical activity guidelines for americans (i.e., ACSM) also emphasizes the importance of reducing sedentary behavior. They encourage individuals to break up prolonged periods of sitting with short bouts of standing, walking, or light activity throughout the day.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.
However, it’s essential to note that while exercise is crucial, it may not fully offset the risks associated with extended periods of sitting. To further minimize the negative impact of prolonged sitting, it’s important to:
- Break up sitting time by standing up and moving around at regular intervals, such as every 30 minutes or hour.
- Incorporate active breaks during the day, such as stretching, walking, or light exercises.
- Consider using a standing desk or other ergonomic solutions to change your posture throughout the day.
- Make a conscious effort to maintain good posture while sitting, to reduce strain on your body.
Remember that a combination of regular exercise, breaking up sitting time, and maintaining proper posture can help mitigate the negative effects of prolonged sitting. However, more research is needed to determine whether these measures can fully eliminate the associated risks.
Be careful even YOU who are doing physical activity according to the WHO guideline, may be sitting too much!
Yes, it is possible for some people to be considered sedentary even if they are engaging in physical activity according to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The term “sedentary” typically refers to a lifestyle characterized by prolonged periods of inactivity or sitting, which can have negative health consequences.
The WHO recommends adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of both each week. While meeting these guidelines is important for overall health, individuals could still be sedentary if they spend most of their day sitting, with limited movement or activity outside of their exercise sessions.
In addition to engaging in the recommended amount of physical activity, it is important to break up prolonged periods of sitting and inactivity with short bouts of movement, such as standing up, walking, or stretching. A combination of regular physical activity and reduced sedentary behavior is the best approach for overall health and well-being. So, both physical activity and sedentary time should be considered for public health.
How much sedentary time is bad for me?
There isn’t a specific threshold for how much sedentary time is considered “dangerous,” as the relationship between sedentary behavior and health risks is complex and varies between individuals. However, research has consistently shown that prolonged sedentary behavior is associated with an enhanced risk of various health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
The risks associated with sedentary behavior tend to increase as the duration of inactivity increases. A meta-analysis published in 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for more than 8 hours per day without engaging in physical activity increased the risk of premature death by 60%. However, engaging in 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day seemed to eliminate the enhanced risk of death associated with prolonged sitting.
It’s important to note that these findings do not provide a clear-cut threshold for “dangerous” sedentary behavior, but they do underscore the importance of minimizing sedentary time and incorporating regular physical activity into one’s daily routine.
Based on health professionals guideline, aim to break up long periods of sitting or inactivity by standing up, stretching, or walking for a few minutes every 30 minutes or so. The more you can reduce sitting time and incorporate daily activity into your day, the better it will be for your overall health and well-being.
Sitting all day? Role of activity tracker to decrease sitting time and increase physical activity: Summary of results of randomized controlled trial studies
What are the activity trackers? And differences between consumer devices and accelerometers?
Activity trackers, also known as fitness trackers or wearables, are devices that help individuals monitor various aspects of their physical activity, such as steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, heart rate, and sleep quality. They can be worn as wristbands, watches, or even clip-on devices. These devices often sync with smartphones, allowing users to review their data, set goals, and track their progress over time.
Consumer devices are activity trackers designed for general use by the public. They typically offer a user-friendly interface, attractive designs, and various features tailored to the needs and preferences of the general population. Examples of popular consumer devices include Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin devices.
Accelerometers, on the other hand, are sensors that measure acceleration forces. They can be found in a variety of applications, including activity trackers, smartphones, and scientific research equipment. In the context of activity tracking, accelerometers measure the change in velocity of the device as the user moves, which can be used to estimate steps, distance, and other metrics.
Differences between consumer devices and accelerometers:
- Purpose: Consumer devices are designed for everyday use and cater to the general population’s fitness tracking needs. Accelerometers are versatile sensors used in various applications, including activity tracking, but they also have broader applications in other fields such as engineering, aviation, and research.
- Design and features: Consumer devices typically have a user-friendly design, incorporating features like heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking, sleep tracking, and smartphone integration. Accelerometers, being just one component of an activity tracker, do not have these additional features.
- Accuracy: While consumer devices provide reasonably accurate estimations of physical activity, they may not be as precise as accelerometers used in research settings. Scientific-grade accelerometers are designed for high accuracy and are often used in research studies to collect detailed, reliable data on physical activity.
- Price: Consumer devices vary in price but are generally affordable for most individuals. Scientific-grade accelerometers, however, can be significantly more expensive due to their higher accuracy and specialized applications.
- Data interpretation: Consumer devices usually come with apps or software that present activity data in an easily understandable format, making it simple for users to track their progress. Accelerometers, particularly those used in research, may require specialized software and expertise to interpret the raw data they produce.
How activity trackers can help us to decrease sitting time and increase physical activity?
Activity trackers can help decrease sitting time and increase physical activity by providing motivation, monitoring, and support. Here are some ways they can be beneficial:
- Tracking and monitoring: Activity trackers can record various metrics, such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. By monitoring their activity levels, users can gain insights into their habits and make informed decisions to improve their overall physical activity.
- Goal setting: Many activity trackers allow users to set personalized daily or weekly goals for steps, distance, or active minutes. These goals provide a clear target to work towards and can motivate users to increase their activity levels.
- Inactivity reminders: Some activity trackers have sedentary alarms or reminders that alert users when they have been sitting for too long. These reminders can encourage users to stand up, stretch, or take a short walk, helping to break up prolonged sitting periods.
- Social features: Many activity trackers offer social features that allow users to connect with friends or join online communities. These connections can create healthy competition, support, and encouragement from peers, motivating users to be more active.
- Gamification: Some trackers incorporate gamification elements, such as earning badges or rewards for achieving specific goals or participating in challenges. These elements can make physical activity more engaging and enjoyable, increasing the likelihood that users will maintain or increase their activity levels.
- Integration with other apps: Activity trackers often integrate with other fitness and health apps, allowing users to see a more comprehensive view of their overall health and wellness. This integration can help users make connections between their physical activity and other aspects of their health, such as sleep and nutrition, further motivating them to make positive changes.
- Education and tips: Some activity trackers provide personalized tips and guidance based on the user’s activity data, which can help users learn about and implement healthier habits in their daily lives.
By providing these features and tools, activity trackers can help users become more aware of their sitting time and encourage them to engage in more physical activity throughout the day.
Summary of some randomized control trial and systematic review studies on the benefits of using activity trackers in decreasing sedentary time and increasing physical activity
In one study, authors aimed to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of a smartphone-based activity tracker for promoting physical activity and improving cardiorespiratory fitness in adult cancer survivors. The study included 49 participants who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or control group. The intervention group received a 12-week activity tracker-based intervention, and the control group received usual care. Results showed that participants in the intervention group significantly increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and improved their cardiorespiratory fitness compared to the control group. The study concluded that a smartphone-based activity tracker could effectively promote physical activity and improve cardiorespiratory fitness among adult cancer survivors.
In another study, which investigated the effectiveness of a mobile health intervention using wearable activity trackers to promote physical activity among adults in the United Kingdom. The study included 210 participants who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or control group. The intervention group received a 12-week program that included a wearable activity tracker, personalized goal setting, and weekly text message reminders, while the control group received standard physical activity advice. The results showed that the intervention group significantly increased their daily step count and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity compared to the control group. The study concluded that a mobile health intervention using wearable activity trackers could effectively increase physical activity in adults.
Another study examined the impact of sit-stand workstations combined with a wearable activity tracker (i.e., objectively measured) on prolonged sitting time, breaks in sitting time, and physical activity among office workers. The study included 103 participants who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or control group. The intervention group received sit-stand workstations and a wearable activity tracker for a 12-week period, while the control group continued with their usual work practices. The results showed that the intervention group significantly reduced their prolonged sitting time and increased the number of breaks in sitting time compared to the control group. However, there was no significant difference in physical activity between the two groups. The study concluded that sit-stand workstations combined with activity trackers could effectively reduce sedentary behavior but may not necessarily increase physical activity among office workers.
And finally, a systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effectiveness of wearable activity trackers in promoting physical activity and health promotion among older adults. The review included 10 randomized controlled trials, with a total of 1,710 participants. The results showed that activity trackers significantly increased physical activity, particularly in terms of step count and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, compared to control groups. The study concluded that wearable activity trackers could be an effective tool for increasing physical activity among older adults.
Finall tips and tricks for breaking prolonged sitting!
Breaking prolonged sitting, or sedentary behavior can be achieved by incorporating simple changes and activities into your daily routine. Here are some methods to help reduce sedentary behavior:
- Set a timer: Use a timer or an activity tracker with a sedentary alert feature to remind you to stand up or move every 30-60 minutes.
- Stand or walk while talking on the phone: Whenever you receive a phone call, make it a habit to stand up or walk around during the conversation.
- Incorporate standing or walking meetings: Instead of sitting in a conference room, opt for standing or walking meetings when possible.
- Use a sit-stand desk: Invest in an adjustable sit-stand desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing while working.
- Take short walking breaks: During work or study breaks, take a short walk around your office, home, or outdoors to stretch your legs and refresh your mind.
- Stand while watching TV: Stand up or walk around during commercials or when streaming content, use the breaks between episodes to move around.
- Use the stairs: Whenever possible, choose to use the stairs instead of elevators or escalators to add more physical activity to your daily routine.
- Park farther away: Park your vehicle farther from the entrance of your destination to encourage more walking.
- Perform household chores: Engage in regular household chores, such as cleaning, vacuuming, or gardening, to break up sedentary time.
- Exercise during breaks: Incorporate short bouts of exercise or stretching during breaks, such as doing jumping jacks, squats, or yoga poses.
- Use public transportation: If feasible, use public transportation or walk or cycle to your destination, as this encourages more physical activity compared to driving.
- Engage in hobbies: Participate in hobbies that require movement, such as dancing, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, to break up sedentary time and stay active.