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Study Finds Exercise Can’t Reverse Damage Caused by Sitting All Day — But This Can



You probably already know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, and that sitting for long periods of time is even worse. But now, new research is finding that it’s even worse than we thought– and that even exercise can’t make up the difference. Luckily, there’s good news too. Finding the time to walk more won’t just help your physical health, but will improve your mood and your ability to handle stress, almost immediately.

The Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle and Sitting for Long Periods of Time

Research revealing the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle has become more and more convincing in recent years, with evidence that too much sitting increases your risk of disability, diabetes, cancer, and a whole set of other serious problems. Scary as these risks are, many of us believed that we could negate the dangers of sitting by following a consistent workout regimen, and for a long time, scientists agreed. Well, all that is changing now.

A new research study from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has now found that people who spend too much time sitting are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, even if they exercise frequently.

Essentially, this new research has shown that sedentary time and exercise time are two distinct factors in regards to their impact on your health. In their study, the researchers found that people who spent more time sitting were more likely to be diagnosed with these types of diseases, but as importantly, regardless of an individual’s level of physical activity, too much sitting was independently linked with bad health outcomes. While people who reported exercising more frequently did have better outcomes, they were far from fully protected from the dangers of excessive sitting.

Dodge the Damaged Caused by Sitting All Day, in Just 30 Minutes

With near-perfect timing, a second new study has identified the benefits of incorporating a half-hour walk into your lunch break. This study, from researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities, found that taking a walk on your lunch break can have immediate benefits—that very afternoon. According to this new research, lunchtime walks can immediately and noticeably improve your mood and ability to handle stress.

Dividing the study participants into two groups, researchers allowed one group to start walking for 30 minutes on their lunch break right away, and requested that the other group wait for 10 weeks, after which they began walking too. Amazingly, people from both groups reported much better results on the days they walked, citing more enthusiasm, less tension, and a more relaxed demeanor.

Moreover, people from the group that waited to begin, reported better results once they began the walking regimen, as compared to what they experienced before starting. Making things even better, the walkers gained aerobic fitness and improved other health measures; all while spending less time sitting.

How to Reduce Your Risk

Fortunately, even if walking on your lunch break is impossible, there is still quite a bit that you can do to mitigate the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. For starters, it’s wise to stand up every half hour and move around, even if it’s only for two or three minutes. If that proves difficult due to your work situation, consider buying or creating a stand-up desk. Of course, common tips about building in more walking time, such as parking further away from your destination, choosing a more-distant restroom, and having walking meetings, are all great ways to spend less time sitting—and more time walking—too. Regardless of what strategy works best for you, the more time you can spend standing, the less time you’ll spend sitting, and the healthier you’ll be. And remember, regular physical activity and exercise are vitally important to your health, but on their own, they may not be enough to win the battle against a sedentary lifestyle.


Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

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2 responses to “Study Finds Exercise Can’t Reverse Damage Caused by Sitting All Day — But This Can”

  1. john polifronio says:

    Hi doc.
    I remember reading, that just the act of rising, often, from your chair, is sufficient to avoid the worst consequences of prolonged sitting.


  2. Antonina Baksh says:

    were can I find stand up table for my home office?