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Sitting is the new smoking

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Exercise is the Best, Cheapest and most Accessible Medicine Available”

This is the message gaining traction among health professionals and summarized by the movement “Exercise is Medicine” relayed by Exercise & Sports Science Australia.

But if exercise is medicine. Which pill to take, and when? Or in other words: how should you exercise and how often?

The consensus seems to lie around a 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, 4 to 5 days a week, plus 2 to 3 sessions of strength and mobility training focussing on compound moves on non-consecutive days. (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/The-amount-of-physical-activity-you-need)

But what you really need should be specific to your age, your current physical condition and abilities. Talk to your fitness and health professional for tailored advices.

Ok, let’s say that you are diligent, and exercise 30min every morning, with a program specifically designed for you. Can you then watch TV for the rest of the day?

Well, it is not that simple. And more studies are pointing out that taking into account your amount of INACTIVITY might be as important as your amount of physical ACTIVITY.

In fact, inactivity has become such a widely recognised problem that the Australian Government has now published the “Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines” that you can find online https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians

And Safe work Australia even states that “Health problems caused by prolonged sitting remain even if you exercise vigorously every day.” https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sedentary

Sitting is the new smoking.

The consequences of sedentary behaviours are worse than what you probably imagine: “an analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.” (Edward R. Laskowski, M.D. : Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting? -Mayo Clinic).

According to the World Health Organization report on “Global Health Risks”: Physical inactivity became the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable disease since 2009. GlobalHealthRisks_report_full.pdf (who.int)

But how much sitting is too long?

Apparently, sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a mini-break is already likely to be detrimental to your health. So how can you remember to move often? Experts from the university of QLD recommend to use environmental triggers to move more often. For example going to the kitchen to drink a sip of water every time the ads are on TV or every time you finish reading a chapter of your book. Or just setting up an alarm to ring at regular intervals during the day. (https://www.beupstanding.com.au/ )

To finish, I want to highlight that physical activity without good sleep, hydration and nutrition can be detrimental and that health is the sum of all those complementary factors. To know more, I highly recommend you to watch the 3 episodes called Fit, Mind and Food of the documentary “How to live longer” on ABC iview. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/how-to-live-younger

Ok, enough sitting in front of the computer! Let’s go for a walk ;-)

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