Bad News: Exercise Won't Save You From Sitting Too Much

Bad News: Exercise Won't Save You From Sitting Too Much

You've heard the scary warnings about how hazardous sitting is to your health. If you work a sedentary desk job but exercise regularly, you may have thought that those warnings didn't apply to you. Well, here's your wake-up call: prolonged sitting may actually cancel out the effects of exercise, making it just as hazardous to an athlete's health as it is to that of a couch potato.

How We Know

Many studies have shown that people who sit for long periods of time experience high risks for all sorts of things, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease, whether or not they exercise. A 2012 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who sit more than eight hours per day—say, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a break for lunch—were 15 percent more likely to die in the study's three-year follow-up period than their more active counterparts, regardless of whether or not they exercised. A 2016 study delved a little deeper. It found that although an hour-long run in the evening usually reduces the levels of harmful triglycerides in the next morning's breakfast, those effects disappear if the run happens after several days of inactivity.

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How To Save Yourself From Sitting

But wait, you might be saying. I'm an active person. I go to the gym and run 5Ks and ride my bike. I'm not the type to just sit around all day. If that's true, you're an outlier: a 2014 survey of 218 marathon and half-marathon runners found that even though they ran 30–40 miles per week, they also sat for nearly 11 hours every weekday. Likewise, a 2012 study found that subjects sat just as much on days they exercised as on days they didn't.

This isn't to say exercise isn't beneficial—it is. This just means that you need to make sure you get up and move around throughout the day, even if you already exercised that morning. Try taking a break to walk around every 60–90 minutes (research says you'll be more productive that way), take walking lunches, and don't be afraid to fidget (it can help stave off the cardiovascular risks of sitting!).

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