Research related to exercise over the past decade has been very clear and consistent -- the more we exercise the lower our risk of nearly all diseases. Simply put: The more we move, the more we improve.
This doesn't mean that just spending an hour a day at the gym counts. A recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sedentary behavior may diminish or nearly eliminate the benefits we get from even an hour a day of exercise. The American College Of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also highlights current research on sedentary behavior. "At the basic-science level, it appears that there are unique physiological processes and pathways associated with sedentary behavior, particularly prolonged sitting," said Neville Owen, Ph.D., the lead presenter of the study. "These are some promising studies that point to what is likely to be a unique 'sedentary physiology,' which is distinct from what is known about the physiological processes generated by working muscle."
Science is showing us that it's not just about burning calories and elevating our heart rates. It's about our overall way of living and moving. It's just as important to break up periods in which you sit or inactive periods, even if it's a minute or five to stretch or walk around. "Healy's research has identified the importance of breaking up sitting time," said Owen. "People who stand up and simply move around more have healthier blood fat and blood glucose levels than those whose sitting time is not broken up by these transitions."
Clearly sedentary behavior has a deeper physiological impact on our bodies than we previously thought. There is a lot of value in activity beyond exercise. It's important to to get up from your desk and take a walk during the workday or take the stairs instead of the elevator, especially for those people where traditional exercise is difficult for legitimate reasons. These choices are as beneficial to your health as your regular exercise routine.
The Ornish Program recommends a minimum of 180 minutes of exercise per week. We also promote an active lifestyle along with stress management, a plant-based nutrition plan and a life filled with love and support. To make the most of our healthy behaviors, we need to focus as much on activity as we do on exercise. So the next time you evaluate your exercise program, don't forget to take a hard look at how much activity you are doing outside of your time at the gym.
How can you get more activity into your daily routine?
This article was originally published in Ornish Living.