Is sitting the silent killer?

We all know that exercise is good for us and that completing regular physical activity is a stimulus for positive health changes. However, as a population, we are less aware that being physically inactive not only prevents us from becoming healthier, but could actually be damaging to our health.

In 2017, 2.4% of all deaths in England were attributed to insufficient physical activity (below 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week) and physical inactivity cost the UK economy £7.4 billion. In the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, the average English adult went from walking 3.8 to 3.5 miles per week. As the rates of obesity continue to rise, physical inactivity seems to be a growing problem.

Eliminating physical inactivity by achieving 30 minutes of daily activity, has been associated with reductions in the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and mental health problems. However, at the moment only 66% of men and 58% of women are meeting these recommendations.The good news is that increasing physical activity does not have to mean just going to the gym, it can also be incorporated into your daily routine. Some easy ways to increase daily activity include; taking the stairs; getting off a stop earlier on your commute; or parking further away from your destination. Clearly, in the current climate of COVID-19 some of this may not be possible, but at home there are changes that can be made. For example, by getting out in the garden, by working standing up, by walking and talking on the phone, and by making sure you spend two minutes of every hour walking.

The ultimate goal is to avoid spending time sitting down as much as possible. It has been estimated that it takes one hour of physical activity to undo the metabolic effect of 8 hours continuous sitting. Not only that but sitting burns on average 50 kcals less per hour than standing; this equates to 400 kcal over a typical working day.

At CP+R, as part of our bespoke programmes, we set daily activity targets using steps or minutes of activity to ensure our athletes minimise the risk of sedentary behaviour. This provides additional benefits over and above the structured exercise we also provide to each individual. Our top tips for to avoid sedentary behaviour are:

  1. Stand up every 30 minutes
  2. Walk every hour (for at least 2 minutes)
  3. Sit on an exercise ball
  4. Take the stairs
  5. Take regular activity breaks.

Key reference – Chief Medical Officer’s Report UK 2018 and 2019.