We’re now familiar with the tune that sitting for long periods can be detrimental to our health. Unfortunately, sitting occupies most of an individual’s waking hours: from commuting or driving to having a desk job and unwinding at home by the end of the day.
A study that was done in 2018 even found that one in four American adults sit for more than eight hours per day. The length we sit in a day is quite alarming, given that sitting is linked with body pain, muscle stiffness, blood clots, weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and even death.
An immediate solution that comes to mind is to avoid sitting for so many hours, but of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s a good thing that science is always looking for ways to improve health as, according to an analysis of data from more than one million adults, it was found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate exercise per day seems to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with extensive sitting time. Read on to know how exercises can help counteract sitting diseases!
Endurance Exercise and Sitting
Recent research published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed an encouraging link between endurance exercises and sitting diseases. Sitting for too long reduces blood flow in the legs and over time, this can result in stiffer blood vessels and hardened, narrow arteries, which can lead to heart disease. The research displayed that the arteries of endurance athletes can hit back against this.
The researchers compared the blood flow of collegiate cyclists with a less-active control group, measuring the arterial dilation before and after sitting for three hours. However, a drastic reduction in leg artery function was experienced by the control group, while the measurements of the cyclists barely changed. The pre-sitting levels of both groups were similar.
Of course, it should be taken to account that not every person is a competitive collegiate cyclist, so it’s impossible to draw a linear conclusion that endurance exercises benefit everyone in the same way. Despite that, the data does prove that the more time we spend exercising, the healthier we can be. One hour of exercise can help combat prolonged sitting, and incorporating long bouts of endurance exercise into your regular fitness regimen may reduce the risks further.
Interestingly, according to a study in the American Journal of Physiology, fidgeting in your chair can also help prevent sitting dysfunctions in the lining of the leg arteries. Dr. Nina Radford, a cardiologist and the director of clinical research at Cooper Clinic stated, “In terms of improving flow-mediated dilation when you sit, it seems like a lot more work to be an elite cyclist than to just fidget when you sit.” Maybe if you can’t hop on a bike and cycle your way around, you can add an under-desk bike to your workstation and do all your fidgeting and pedaling at your desk.
Aside from exercising regularly, Radford also recommends getting up and moving throughout the day by making simple changes to one’s workday routine. This includes taking the stairs instead of the elevator when possible, taking phone calls standing up and moving around, walking over to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email, or taking exercise breaks whenever you can.
Science has shown being active is always better than sitting. Whether you fidget in your seat all day or do light exercises or cycle for long distances, no matter what, the most important thing to do is to sit less and exercise more for better health and longevity. If you’re starting your fitness regimen today, take a look at our numerous exercise articles and see which one is the best for you.