(NaturalNews) Sitting down for two straight hours and doing nothing might negate the benefits of a daily 20-minute exercise routine. Idle behavior throughout the day could make an exercise routine worthless in the end. A study from the UT Southwestern Medical Center shows how sedentary behaviors lower cardio respiratory fitness levels.
This might be a concern for those who sit most of the day doing their job or for those who sit routinely in front of the television in the evening. The cardiologists spearheading this study showed that sitting for long periods causes fitness levels to plummet, but they did not investigate ways to offset idle behavior by strengthening the circulatory system through dietary measures.
For every six hours of idle behavior, one hour of exercise is needed to compensate
The UT Southwestern Medical Center study was published in the online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The cardiologists looked at data from 2223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and made associations between sedentary behavior, daily exercise, and fitness levels.
Sedentary behavior include idle activities like watching TV to more engaged activities that still require long periods of sitting like driving a vehicle or reading. In sedentary behavior, the lowest amount of energy is used. (Note, conserving energy is beneficial in some cases when the immune system is depleted.)
Accelerometer data was analyzed from participating men and women between the ages of 12 and 49. The average daily physical activity and sedentary behavior times were recorded. The participants were all healthy, with no known history of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and asthma. Their fitness levels were recorded using a submaximal treadmill test. After testing cardiovascular performance, the cardiologists compared the data, factoring in variables like age, gender, and body mass index.
In the end, the cardiologists reasoned that six hours of sitting time can have the same magnitude of impact on cardiovascular health as does one hour of exercise. The researchers scaled it down to show that two hours of sitting can negate 20 minutes of daily exercise.
Dr. Jarett Berry, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Science and senior author of the study said, "Previous studies have reported that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes; however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are not completely understood. Our data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behavior throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity."
Study encourages workers to interrupt work activities with short walks throughout the day
Berry recommends those who work behind desks to take short walks during lunch and throughout the day, using pedometer to track daily steps. "We also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and was also associated with better fitness," said Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, lead author of the paper. "So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget." She urges people to take the stairs instead of the elevator and conduct company meetings while on a walk. She says that standard desk chairs can be replaced with treadmill desks, too.
Dietary factors not included in the study
The cardiologists did not investigate the effects that heart-healthy foods have on the cardiovascular system, including people's fitness levels. Is it possible that omega-3 and 6 fatty acids could compensate for sedentary behavior and improve fitness levels without the person doing much exercise at all? How might heart healthy foods like Hawthorne berry mitigate the negative effects of idle behavior?