Does regular exercise make up for long hours of sitting? A meta-study conducted in Sweden suggests that it takes more than that to stay healthy.
The approach of the study
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults whose periods of sedentary activity are too frequent or too long, either on the job or in private life, spend at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate exercise. This could reduce their risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. However, Elin Ekblom Bak, Mai-Lis Hellénius and Björn Ekblom, who are researchers at the renowned Karolinska Institute or The Swedish School for Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm, have come to the conclusion that this may not be enough. The scientific studies they analyzed suggest that regular breaks during periods of sedentary activity can be just as important as the exercise recommended by the WHO. The crucial factor seems to be exercising the muscles at all—throughout the whole body as much as possible and as often as possible.
As a result of this and similar studies, Ekblom Bak, Hellénius and Ekblom conclude that exercise during an individual’s leisure time is not in itself sufficient to compensate for the possible negative effects of long sedentary periods. The exercise must be supplemented by frequently repeated breaks in the sedentary activity. Specifically, they recommend that people walk whenever possible and stand up for at least five minutes during every hour of sitting.
Information about the study
Source: Ekblom Bak, E.; Hellénius, M.-L.; Ekblom, B. Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology?, published in Br J Sports Med 2010, 44:834–835
You can find more information about the study and a PDF file on this page of the National Library of Medicine.
Photography in this article: IBA, taken on the premises of New Work SE Hamburg