- New research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine says reducing your sedentary time by one hour a day for three months improves heart health and metabolism.
- The goal is simply to move more and more often — study participants saw benefits after incorporating standing and low-intensity activities.
Comparisons of sitting with smoking and advice on how to reduce sitting time have both become a common refrain. But how much do you actually need to reduce your inactivity to see health benefits?
According to a new study in Journal of Science and Medicine, Just three months of exercise an extra hour a day can make significant changes in cardiovascular health and the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially when accompanied by increased physical activity.
Researchers in Finland looked at 64 sedentary middle-aged adults with metabolic syndrome and divided the participants into two groups: One reduced sedentary behavior by an hour a day with more standing and light-intensive exercise. The other kept up their usual routine.
Activity and sedentary time were measured over three months using hip-worn accelerometers. Researchers also tracked body composition, blood pressure, blood glucose levels and a specific liver enzyme used in determining cardiometabolic health.
That study design is unique, because previous studies have relied mainly on measuring these markers at the beginning and end of a study period, which does not provide insight into how these behavioral changes improve health over time, said lead author Taru Garthwaite, Ph. .D. candidate at the University of Turku.
As a result, the intervention group saw better health outcomes related to blood sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity and liver health, she said. Bicycles.
“The main takeaway is that sitting a little less every day makes a difference, especially if you’re not very physically active,” she said. “It’s encouraging to think that health benefits can be achieved by including even light-intensive activities in the day rather than continuous sitting and you don’t necessarily have to start a rigorous exercise program.”
In terms of why sitting appears to be so harmful, it’s still not entirely clear, she added. However, there is some evidence of physiological mechanisms. For example, leg muscle inactivity and changes in blood flow and circulatory system likely play a role.
“Standing up and moving naturally activates the muscles and increases blood flow compared to sitting continuously, and this in turn improves glucose and lipid metabolism,” she said.
A warning to avid cyclists: It’s likely that for sedentary and inactive people who already have some metabolic disorders, like the study participants, even a modest amount of activity can provide benefits, but Garthwaite added that healthy, active people have a greater need to reduce sitting time for health improvements.
Whatever your starting point, the message is the same: “Some activity, of any intensity, is better than none,” Garthwaite said.
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