Leading a sedentary lifestyle is bad for the health 💀
In fact, research consistently suggests that sitting around all day puts you at increased risk of various chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and early death.
But that’s not exactly groundbreaking news, is it?
You’re probably well-acquainted with the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle – thus, explaining why you bother carving out 45-60 minutes of your daily schedule (no matter how busy it can get) to exercise.
That’s fantastic. You’re already doing more than the average individual out there.
Does your daily schedule look like this?
Although, this has to be said… You can’t just rely on those 45-60 minutes of exercise to ‘offset’ all the other hours of sedentary behaviors. To illustrate this, imagine if your daily schedule resembles the following:
• 8 AM: Breakfast
• 9 AM: Work
• 12 PM: Lunch-time
• 1 PM: Back to work
• 7 PM: Workout
• 8 PM till bedtime: Dinner, shower, TV, then off to ZZZ land
Look at that carefully. How many hours do you spend being physically active – other than your allocated exercise time? If you’re still working from home, the answer is likely minimal.
Exercising does not offset the dangers of leading a sedentary lifestyle
And that’s associated with bad news.
Emerging evidence suggests that simply going to the gym (or doing any form of exercise in general) doesn't cancel out those hours of sitting still.
To make that piece of news easier to digest, here’s how you can reframe your perception of exercise: rather than seeing your workout as directly counteracting sedentary behavior, a more accurate representation is this:
• Time spent being sedentary: Carries a negative health risk
• Exercise: Exerts a separate, positive impact on health
So, yes, while making time to exercise as frequently as you can is undoubtedly a good thing, it is only one-half of the equation. If you're still not convinced, perhaps the following study can help.
Researchers of a 2021 study published in the European Journal of Sport Science recruited 65 female and 70 male athletes from various sports to determine the relationship between time spent in sedentary behaviors and body composition.
Even in the presence of a large volume of hard training (on average, 11.9 hours a week!), being very sedentary can increase an athlete's likelihood of carrying more fat mass and less lean mass.
This deserves re-iterating: these are athletes we’re talking about.
They train, on average, 11.9 hours weekly. That translates to 102 minutes of exercising every single day. If they face an increased likelihood of carrying more fat mass and less lean mass, imagine what that would mean for you (definitely not trying to be mean here!) – especially if you're not hitting this volume of training.
It doesn't take much to lead an active lifestyle
There's no need to despair just yet. Thankfully, it doesn't take that much to lead an active lifestyle – which can have some pretty incredible effects on your metabolism.
Although, this does beg the question: “What is an active lifestyle?”
Of course, there are many ways to quantify an active lifestyle. But the easiest would be by step counts. In general, the number of steps you take throughout the day serves as a pretty reliable indicator of how much you’re moving about (i.e. munching on popcorn while binging through all seasons of The Crown would register as 0 steps).
Collectively, research indicates that if you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, with the definition being getting 1,000 to 3,000 steps daily, getting up to:
• 5,000 steps: May already make a difference
• 7,000 to 9,000 steps: May eliminate any adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle
How to get in more steps during the day
So, how do you get in more steps over the day?
Take frequent breaks
It's surprisingly easy. You could just start by frequently interrupting your sitting time (e.g. at work) with short breaks of movement.
If you're still working from home, take a walk around the living room; this is an excellent opportunity for you to rest your eyes too! And if you're back in the office, take a stroll, or locate your favorite colleague for a quick chat.
A 2008 study published in Diabetes Care showcases just how effective this strategy can be. The researchers equipped 168 adults with an accelerometer that measured their every move for 7 consecutive days.
Those who took more breaks from sitting had narrower waists, lower body mass index, glucose and triglycerides tolerance – all important measures for obesity and metabolic health.
Cut down on your usage of automotive transportation
Have a strict boss who’d prefer if you stayed in front of your desk as much as possible?
Consider making time for 1 or 2 20-minute walks per day in your schedule.
You can do so by cutting down on your reliance on automotive transportation (i.e. car, train, or bus) – and choose to walk and/or bike to any place you regularly go that's a 15-30 minute walk (or bike ride away).
Good examples include the post office, gym, and even your office.
Sitting doesn’t have to be your default
The time you spend being physically active doesn’t only have to be limited to the time you have away from the screen (or from your work seat).
There are several simple changes you can make – right now! – to your working environment that'll have you leading a more active lifestyle.
For instance, standing desks and treadmill desks.
By the time that routine 30-minute long morning meeting is over, you'd already have clocked half your daily required steps! It's a life hack for sure.
Need a reminder to lead an active lifestyle (outside of the gym)?
Admittedly, staying physically active throughout the day can be challenging to stick to – especially when life gets busy with its constant juggling of work, social life, and relationship matters.
But you’ll find that the benefits are more than worth it (e.g. better, restful sleep).
So, if you need constant reminders to get up and move throughout the day, you should definitely join the GymStreak community. We’re a bunch of tight-knit fitness enthusiasts who believe that done is better than perfect – and will make sure you’re getting in as much movement as possible (even a little is better than none!)
And while you’re at it… You might as well download the GymStreak app, an AI-powered workout planner and tracker that customizes all workouts to your unique fitness goals.Get GymStreak
Burton, H. M., & Coyle, E. F. (2021). Daily Step Count and Postprandial Fat Metabolism. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 53(2), 333–340. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000002486
Ekelund, U., Tarp, J., Fagerland, M. W., Johannessen, J. S., Hansen, B. H., Jefferis, B. J., Whincup, P. H., Diaz, K. M., Hooker, S., Howard, V. J., Chernofsky, A., Larson, M. G., Spartano, N., Vasan, R. S., Dohrn, I.-M., Hagströmer, M., Edwardson, C., Yates, T., Shiroma, E. J., … Lee, I.-M. (2020). Joint associations of accelero-meter measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality: A harmonised meta-analysis in more than 44 000 middle-aged and older individuals. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(24), 1499–1506. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2020-103270
Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J. E., Zimmet, P. Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in Sedentary Time: Beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care, 31(4), 661–666. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc07-2046
Júdice, P. B., Hetherington-Rauth, M., Magalhães, J. P., Correia, I. R., & Sardinha, L. B. (2021). Sedentary behaviours and their relationship with body composition of athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2021.1874060
Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Kamada, M., Bassett, D. R., Matthews, C. E., & Buring, J. E. (2019). Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899
Park, J. H., Moon, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kong, M. H., & Oh, Y. H. (2020). Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 41(6), 365–373. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.20.0165