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The Epidemic Of Sedentary Behavior

“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”  — Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was right: Experts are saying sedentary behavior is an epidemic, with the resulting health effects potentially devastating.

Lack of muscular activity is associated with higher incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as a heightened risk of death. And this is regardless of one’s level of structured physical exercise, according to the authors of an article published [recently] in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The team from Stockholm, Sweden, says that sedentary behavior has become synonymous with lack of exercise, but that this is inaccurate and misleading. Rather, sedentary behavior should be defined as whole body muscular inactivity.

As an illustration, they cite an Australian study linking each additional hour of television a woman watches with a 26 percent increase in metabolic syndrome risk, regardless of the amount of moderate to vigorous exercise she engages in. Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of overweight and obesity-linked risk factors which increase the chances of coronary artery disease. Such factors include a large waistline, lower level of HDL or “good” cholesterol, and higher levels of triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood).

And individuals who already engage in little to no exercise will suffer the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle even more, they wrote. (Though, they did indicate that additional research is needed.) While guidelines currently do provide recommendations for minimum amounts of physical activity to shoot for, there are no current guidelines relative to time spent sitting or sedentary.

“In the future, the focus in clinical practice and guidelines should not only be to promote and prescribe exercise, but also to encourage people to maintain their intermittent levels of daily activities [that involve movement],” the authors wrote. “Climbing the stairs, rather than using elevators and escalators, five minutes of break during sedentary work, or walking to the store rather than taking the car will be as important as exercise.”

– Originally published in the St. Louis Beacon.


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One Response to “The Epidemic Of Sedentary Behavior”

  1. primary doc says:

    But I thought the great goal in medicine today was to arrange the work flow so that docs, nurses, and staff can sit uninterrupted in front of a computer all day long?

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