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 How does Sedentary Behavior Impact Adult Health?

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There are many campaigns encouraging kids to get up and get active, however it is equally as important for adults to stay active. True, a 45-year-old may not be able to go out and play a pickup game of basketball at the drop of a hat. Fortunately there is research supporting that simply limiting extended periods of sedentary behavior can have a positive impact on an individual’s health.

What is Sedentary Behavior?

Sedentary behavior is often defined as activity that requires less than 1.5 METs. MET stands for metabolic equivalent, which measures the amount of oxygen used when completing a task. This measurement changes from person to person based on factors such as age and weight.

Examples of sedentary behaviors include sitting and lying down. In modern society, many of our daily activities center on this type of activity. Vehicular transportation and increased screen time for both work and leisure lead to decreased movement and increased time sitting – resulting in a more sedentary way of life.

It is important to note that living a sedentary lifestyle is different than not getting enough exercise. Even if you don’t get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every week, you can see positive benefits by completing more light intensity activity on a daily basis.

Light intensity activity requires 1.6 – 2.9 METs and includes standing, leisurely walking and some self-care chores.

Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the effects of a sedentary life. Studies have found the following to be health risks associated with excessive sedentary behavior.

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Overall mortality
  • Diabetes
  • Mental health complications
  • Muscle and bone degeneration

How to Be Less Sedentary

Unfortunately, current research suggests that even those who get the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous exercise each week can experience the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, there is a simple step you can make to reduce the impact that sedentary behavior has on your health.

Based on the study of metabolic markers in the body, research has found that breaking up long sedentary periods throughout your day with short periods of light activity can improve your health outlook. The most beneficial ratio of sedentary time to lightly active time is still being researched; however Boys Town National Research Hospital challenges adults to take part in light intensity activity for 10 minutes every hour.

Adding this activity to your life doesn’t have to dramatically impact your schedule or productivity. Consider taking a short walk to run errands or chat with a coworker about an upcoming project at the beginning of every hour at work. For maximum benefit, the light activity added to your day should be moving light activity rather than simply standing up for 10 minutes.

If you are concerned about adding this activity to your daily routine, consult your primary care provider first.