Does routine exercise protect you from sedentary death syndrome?

There are multiple studies that show that inactivity is hazardous to your health.  Muscles at rest for prolonged periods of time release a host of inflammatory factors that literally start the process of decay.  Sedentary death syndrome refers to the slow death that people experience when they are inactive.  Believe it or not, daily exercise is not enough to keep us fit.  Being fit has more to do with how active we are throughout the day.  It’s what we do when we’re not exercising that determines our true level of fitness.  The average person sits for approximately 9 hours per day.  How about you?   Much of our understanding about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle comes from the research on television viewers.

Multiple studies have shown that too much TV time is associated with an increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and death by any cause.  According to a recent study, people who watch four hours or more per day are 80 percent more likely to die from heart disease and approximately 50 percent more likely to die in general. Each additional hour spent in front of the TV increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 18 percent and the overall risk of death by 11 percent.  I am certain that the most dangerous thing about watching television is that you tend to do it on your butt.  The most important finding from these studies is that regular exercise does not protect you from the disease and death associated with watching too much television.  In other words, regular exercise does not protect you from uninterrupted periods of sedentary behavior.

Given the above, I strongly recommend taking a whole day approach to physical activity.  Muscles in motion promote health and wellness.  Active muscles actually release anti-inflammatory factors that slow down aging and decrease the risk of disease.  Think of creative ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routines.  For example, one of my patients plans to walk with her boss during her daily meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.  Walk while you’re talking on the phone.  Walk to see your colleague down the hall instead of sending her an email.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re stuck at a desk, get up and walk around the office at least once per hour.

The bottom line is this: it’s not ok to exercise for an hour or two and then sit around for the rest of the day.  We recommend accumulating at least 10,000 steps before you hit the pillow each night.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD


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