Many of us spend most of our waking hours sitting. Research has shown that sitting for too long increases the likelihood of premature death and risk for developing chronic diseases. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology adds one more reason to stop sitting too much: It can make our bodies resistant to the metabolic effects of exercise.
Researchers at the University of Texas Austin asked physically active graduate students to sit for 10 hours and take fewer than 4,000 steps per day. On the fifth day, the students were given milkshakes to see how their bodies would metabolize sugar and fat after the prolonged inactivity. The students then repeated the inactive behavior for four more days, followed up by a run on the treadmill on the fifth day.
The researchers were surprised by their findings: The students’ metabolisms had become sluggish, and exercise did not undo the negative effects of inactivity. The researchers say these results suggest that, by spending most of our time sitting, we don’t see much physiological benefit from exercise.
What can you do to sit less, especially if you drive to work and spend the day in an office chair?
First, take 10,000 steps per day, which is the heart-healthy recommended number of daily steps. Wearing a fitness tracker will help ensure you’re meeting this goal.
Second, take a 10-minute walking break every hour. Even if you walk a lap around your workplace, this is a way to break up the sedentary workday.
Third, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park farther away from the building so you have to walk longer.
Take steps to spend more time on your feet. Your well-being will thank you for it.