How to undo a great workout
Let’s say you run three miles really hard, working up a sweat and feel exhausted. And, you know you have done something great for your body. You assume it doesn’t matter what you do the rest of the day. The health benefits of the running are “in the bank.” Turns out, those benefits can be robbed by something we all do too much of: namely, sitting.
The trendy phrase now is “sitting is the new smoking.” This is, of course, a gross exaggeration, since nothing is as unhealthy as smoking. It does, however, highlight the fact that sitting is harmful in many ways. A recent review of forty studies on the topic has shown that the amount of time sitting is related to premature death, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and especially type-2 diabetes.
We often are unaware of the amount of time we spend sitting: at the breakfast table, in the car going to work, glued to chair 8 hours at a job, back in the car, sitting at dinner, and then several hours in the evening with TV or the computer. This could in some cases add up to a staggering 13 hours on our duff.
There have been some studies that suggest that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense exercise may overcome the ill effects of sitting. This has not been proven. However, it is known that no amount of exercise can undo the effect sitting has on insulin levels and blood fats.
Humans were not designed to sit for hours hunched over a computer screen, staring at a TV screen, or even reading a book. If you are sitting for a long time, it is helpful to get up periodically and move. Isometric exercises can be done without any outward movement. Even fidgeting in your chair helps. Small amounts of movement add up, just as much as the periods of sitting add up.
Just like eating a salad at lunch doesn’t cancel the harm caused by unhealthy food the rest of the day, exercise doesn’t usually cancel the harm caused by too much sitting. Don’t be what is referred to as a “sedentary athlete” or an “active couch potato.” Be mindful of your activity level the whole day not just during the workout time. Move more, sit less.