In the last several years an entire new discipline of medical science has arisen, called “inactivity physiology”. Researchers in this area study the effects of being inactive too long; principally as a result of sitting for protracted periods in front of a computer or television.
A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet on July 18 concluded, perhaps shockingly, that inactivity is the cause of more premature deaths worldwide than cigarettes (5.3 million vs. 5.0 million yearly). The World Health Organization (WHO) now ranks inactivity as the fourth most important risk factor for chronic disease, only behind high blood pressure, cigarettes, and high cholesterol.Another shocking conclusion of inactivity physiologists is that sitting too long is even harmful to the person who exercises daily for 30 to 60 minutes. If that same person also spends several hours sitting in one spot without much movement, all the good from their exercise program is cancelled out. These people, and there are many, may think they are in great shape, but they are probably in metabolic jeopardy.
Why is the simple act of moving so good for you? Scientists know that whenever you get out of your chair, your blood sugar improves, as well as your cholesterol and triglycerides levels. The underlying mechanism may be that when you contract the big muscles of the hips and upper legs, these muscles release “myokines”. These hormone-like substances shrink the deposits of the dangerous deep-abdominal (“visceral”) fat, the type of fat that increases your body’s overall level of inflammation.
So moving around probably works as a natural anti-inflammatory, calming your body. Increased levels of inflammation in the body is strongly believed to an important factor in the development of certain cancers (especially breast and colon), dementia, and heart attacks. When you sit too long, your body enters a higher inflammatory state, setting the stage for various chronic and unpleasant health problems.
If you are a person who is discouraged by the progress of your exercise routine, and your waistline, for example, is not responding to exercise and diet as it should, think about how much time you sit in one spot daily.
The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey measured the movements of 4800 adults over an entire week. Then they correlated how much these people moved around per day with metrics such as waist size, cholesterol, and blood pressure. The top 25% most active of the group had significantly lower blood lipid levels, and their waist circumference was 4.1 cm less than the least active 25%.
The next post will list some practical ways you can protect yourself from the these problems related to inactivity, even if your job consists of sitting in a cubicle 8 hours a day, working on the phone and computer.
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