As it turns out, I may not be active enough.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) as well as findings released late last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research are causing experts to reconsider the importance of moving throughout the day in addition to getting regular exercise.
"The more you move around, the greater the health benefits," which include a lower blood pressure, easier weight control, and less stress, says Miriam Nelson, PhD, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention, and associate professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Nelson is also co-author of The Social Network Diet, Change Yourself, Change the World.
Working out at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, as prescribed in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) that Nelson helped to create, may not offer enough protection against obesity and other chronic illness.
That's the conclusion of the AJCN article which found that even high levels (more than 7 hours weekly) of moderate-intensity activity- the amount I get- cannot completely cancel out the health risks linked to long periods spent sitting or watching TV (7 hours or more daily).
Bottom line: The more you sit, the greater your risk for dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
No study is perfect, however, and Nelson says this one left some stones unturned.
"For example, the researchers didn't look at vigorous activity, which, unlike moderate-intensity activity, may help reduce disease risk no matter how much we sit," she says.
According to the PAG guidelines, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as running, is worth 150 minutes of moderate activity, like walking.
Is sitting the new smoking?
Now you know: It's not enough to exercise and sit for the rest of the day. Yet, most of us can hardly avoid the inactivity of modern life. At the office, we're tied to our desks, and many people have long commutes. As a writer, I spend hours in the chair. Then there's the hour or more when I collapse on the couch every night to watch TV.
When registered dietitian, author and diabetes expert Jill Weisenberger decided she'd had enough inactivity, she invested in a TrekDesk.
"I bought the desk because I was sitting so much and it was hard to get much activity other than 30-60 minutes of exercise on most days," Weisenberger says. "When I'm writing or doing other work at my desk, I walk slowly on the TrekDesk. I can log seven to nine miles a day, and I average about 30 miles a week."
Weisenberger and other health experts will tell you there's no need to spend one cent to increase physical activity. Here are some inexpensive ways to be more active every day, which you should do in addition to getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week:
- Pace when you're on the phone, or when waiting for an elevator, bus, train, or plane.
- At work and at home, set a timer on your phone, computer, or microwave to remind you to get up every 60 minutes and move around.
- When watching TV, get up during every commercial and walk around the house.
- Skip the email and phone and deliver messages in person to colleagues and neighbors.
- Bring the laundry upstairs one load at a time.
- Take the groceries in from the car, one bag at a time.
- Keep light (3- and 5-pound) hand weights in your office or at home to use when you're on the phone or reading email.
- Always take the stairs.
- Park further away from your destination.
- Walk with a friend instead of lingering over coffee or drinks.
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)