It’s no secret that incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle helps stave off heart disease and contributes to longevity while 11% of early deaths in the US can be attributed to physical inactivity. However, recent research from the University of Texas at Austin shows that getting exercise doesn’t alleviate health risks if you’re also sitting for long stretches of the day.
The study, published in The American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, followed a group of young male volunteers and is one of the first to look at people who work out but spend prolonged periods sitting. The men were active — sitting for about eight hours every day while averaging 17,000 steps daily — for four days in a row and sedentary — sitting for 14 hours a day — for the following four days.
Earlier studies have shown how exercise — specifically, running for an hour — can offset high-fat, sugary meals by reducing triglycerides, or fats linked to heart disease that enter the bloodstream after eating. During the volunteer’s active days, the research team observed this phenomenon, although when the volunteers did the same workout during their sedentary days, running didn’t offset the high levels of triglycerides.
According to Edward F. Coyle, senior author of the study and a University of Texas professor of kinesiology and health education: “So much sitting seems to have made the men’s bodies exercise-resistant.”
The researchers theorize that so much inactivity changed the volunteer’s physiology, blocking exercises from increasing the metabolism of fat. Essentially, the men’s bodies were functioning as though they weren’t working out at all.
However, there is hope for those of us constrained to our desks during the workday. While one high-intensity workout might not help after a long period of sitting, moving frequently throughout the day promotes the same benefits we’ve come to associate with an active lifestyle. Future experiments will look at the physiological processes and how these results might vary across different demographic groups, but this research emphasizes the importance of being active, even if it’s just a walk around the office at regular intervals.
If joint pain is preventing you from living an active lifestyle, contact Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert specializing in procedures including knee arthroscopy and shoulder replacement, to learn what treatment options are best for you.