Being sedentary may not reduce the years in your life, but it can reduce the life in your years

Couch potatoes rejoice! Sitting for long periods is NOT bad for your health, study claims”, declared a very eye-catching headline in the Daily Mail this week. But sitting is bad for your health, we know it is, and the science agrees, even the authors of the study agree.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, looked at the association between different types of sitting time (work, TV, non-TV leisure-time, leisure-time and total sitting) and death from all causes in men and women working white-collar jobs on Whitehall in London. In this group of people, none of the different types of sitting time were associated with early death. But, they sat less and did more activity than people who have taken part in other studies where sitting for too long has been associated with poor health. So, they may not have sat down enough to limit their lifespan or they may have been protected, at least to some extent, by their physical activity.

This study didn’t look at whether the time the men and women spent sitting down was associated with the preventable diseases that research has previously shown to been linked with this behaviour, like type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and even some types of cancer. So, although being sedentary may not reduce the years in your life, it can reduce the life in your years.

The authors of the study quite rightly, warn us that “policy makers should be cautious about recommending reductions in sitting time as a stand-alone public health intervention.” We agree, physical activity is multidimensional – sedentary time is just one of those dimensions. To reduce your risk of developing numerous preventable diseases you also need to include more physical activity into your day.

What’s more, sedentary time is more than just sitting down. Dr Mevyn Hillsdon, one of the co-authors of the new study, is quoted as saying that “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.” We agree and that’s why every minute that your calorie burn isn’t high enough to reach the threshold for light activity is included in the sedentary time dimension in all of the KiActiv solutions.

Leading a more physically active lifestyle can help prevent you developing numerous diseases in the future. Just remember that a physical active lifestyle comes in many different forms, that’s because physical activity is multidimensional. The key is to understand what your lifestyle looks like now and find what activities “count” for you, something as simple as fidgeting may increase your calorie burn to mean you’re not sedentary, but you may need to do more, like pacing around when you’re on the phone. Just don’t stay still for too long and include activity that you enjoy every day.

Physical activity guidelines may be inadequate to prevent heart failure

We all know that physical activity plays a significant role in our health now and in the future, but are we doing enough?

New evidence suggests that the government recommendations of 150-minutes a week are inadequate to substantially reduce your risk of developing heart failure in the future. In fact, we should all need to be doing two to four times that amount of physical activity to significantly affect our heart health.

In their meta-analysis, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, the researchers looked at eight studies and analysed the results together. They found that people reporting doing 150-minutes of activity a week only had a 10% lower risk of going on to develop heart failure within the average 13-year follow-up period compared to people doing no physical activity. The researchers said this result was ‘not good enough’, and we agree.

The more activity people did, the more they reduced their risk – twice the government recommendations (300-minutes a week) reduced risk by 19%, with a 35% lower risk in heart failure in those reporting four times the recommendations (600-minutes a week). Importantly, this relationship stayed consistent across age, sex, race, and countries studied.

This isn’t the first large-scale study to show that more physical activity is better for reducing your risk of developing a number of different preventable diseases. If you look back at our blog from the last few months, you’ll see that we’ve reported on a number of them.

There is no denying that some activity is better than none – in fact, back in August this year we reported the results of one large study in Sweden that showed the benefits of 20-minutes a day on heart failure. But, if we take all the evidence together we can say with some certainty that the more activity you do the greater the benefit to your health.

The important thing is knowing what “counts” for you, only then can you decide how you want to be active. That’s where the KiActiv Solutions come in.

Physical activity is multi-dimensional activity, with each dimension having independent and important benefits to our health. The activities that “count” will be different for each of us. For some of us activity might mean walking the dog, for others 9-holes of golf, it might even be something that may seem small and insignificant, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might be all of the above.

If it “counts”, fits seamlessly into your day and you enjoy it, then it’s probably the right activity for you.

You might want to stand up for this.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that sitting down is killing us.

Science is beginning to reveal the true extent of the damage our sedentary lifestyles are doing to our health. Evidence suggests that the more than seven hours the average Brit spends sitting every day could be exacting a serious toll on our bodies, increasing our risk of developing preventable diseases like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, and backache, as well as anxiety and depression. More recently, researchers have added both cancer and non-fatty liver disease to this ever-expanding list.

For many years, doctors thought that all these problems were the result of too little time spent exercising. And, public health messages reflected this thinking, with the government telling us we should all do 150-minutes of moderate activity each week – they suggest we achieve this by doing 30-mins on most days. But what about the other 23 and a half hours a day?

Whilst being physically active is critical, it can’t make up for the damaging effects of sitting too much. That’s because a sedentary body and a standing body use energy in completely different ways, so these two behaviours, or dimensions, have independent effects on our bodies. Indeed, there are multiple independent biologically-important dimensions of physical activity and it’s these that make up the personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles developed by our partners at the University of Bath and visualised in the KiActiv solutions.

We it comes to sedentary time, we need a change in culture. Although TV watching is an obvious target – going out for a walk instead of watching TV in the evenings would definitely decrease sedentary time by an hour or two. But what about the 8-hours or more adults spend sitting behind a desk each day – decreasing this would have a much bigger impact. Children spend at least 6-hours at school each day being taught that sitting still at a desk is good – is it any wonder we carry this behaviour into adulthood. Standing up at your desk and moving around the office or classroom may seem like an oddity now, but hopefully it will be the norm in the future.

This type of culture change will take time, but we can all make changes in our own lives today, we just need to know what our current lifestyle looks like. KiActiv solutions put the data from your lifestyle in context, not only telling about your activity, but also your sedentary behaviour. Once you know when you’re sedentary and exactly how long you’re sedentary for, you can choose how you what to do to decrease your sedentary and improve your health.

Try breaking up your sitting time by moving around for 5-minutes every hour or so. You might want to hold walking meetings, get your coffee from a kitchen that’s further away or even on another floor (taking the stairs up and back down, of course), or even just fidget more – the choice is yours, just sit less and move more.

Physical Activity is the Key to a Longer, Healthier Life

You could live up to 7-years longer if you walked briskly for 20- to 25-minutes every day, the delegates at the European Society of Cardiology Congress heard on Sunday. And it doesn’t matter how old you are – other research shows that people who start exercising in their 70’s also benefit.

Last month, we talked about a large Swedish study that showed similar results. In that study, as little as 20-minutes a day of walking or cycling was associated with a 21% lower risk of developing heart failure. Both studies suggest 20-minutes as the minimum amount we should be doing each day, not the optimum. You may also have read our blog back in August talking about research that showed that more is better when it comes to preventing an early death, at least up to 300-minutes a week. Start with 20-minutes and increase your activity at your own pace.

The research showed that different types of activity – aerobic, high intensity and strength – all have a positive impact on markers of aging. Although aerobic and high intensity activity were better than strength training at increasing telomerase activity, which helps to repair DNA as gets old.

This highlights that we don’t all need to be doing the same thing when it comes to physical activity to gain similar benefits – one size doesn’t fit all!

It’s time to change the way we think about Physical Activity – it is not just exercise. It has multiple dimensions that we can take advantage of to gain the innumerable health benefits. So, each of us can choose what we want to do to optimise our physical activity and harness all of its protective properties. The key is to find out what “counts” for us. It’s likely you’re already doing at least one thing every day that counts for you. It could be anything from walking to the bus stop or playing with the kids, to playing 9 holes of golf or a daily run. That’s why we visualise personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles in the KiActiv System. They enhance understanding, inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity – it’s your life, you choose how to optimise your physical activity and improve your health.

Is a lack of housework really making women fat?

Can the Daily Mail’s attention grabbing headline “Not doing enough housework is ‘making women fat’, study claims” be right?

Putting aside the obvious connotations, they have a point – but it’s not just housework and it’s not just women. Modern life is energy-saving; we now use a vacuum cleaner instead of sweeping or scrubbing the floor; we drive to the supermarket instead of walking around the local shops to buy our food; we take the escalator instead of walking up the stairs; we sit at a desk for at least 8-hours a day, and the list goes on. All this energy-saving technology has meant our daily calorie burn has decreased and obesity levels have risen.

Whilst obesity is on the increase our calorie intake has actually decreased over the past 30-years by about 20%, according to research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The researchers found that, we are eating out more, snacking more and spending more on food, but we are filling our shopping baskets with healthier options. So, although our calorie intake has decreased, our calorie burn must have decreased even more.

Researcher Melanie Lührmann suggests “we are probably ill-advised to just look at food consumption as the main factor explaining obesity. Both physical activity and calories are important.”

Exercise is only one way to increase your daily calorie burn and if you enjoy it, keep it up! But, don’t forget about the other 23.5hours of your day – assuming you sleep for 8-hours, as well as your 30-minute workout you have another 930 minutes to burn extra calories (or 960 minutes if you don’t like exercise). Put it this way, if you burnt half a calorie more every minute you’re awake, you would burn almost 500 extra calories even if you don’t exercise. If you didn’t change what you were eating, you should see a weight loss of about 1lb a week.

It’s all about finding ways to move more throughout your day, just like your grandparents did. And that goes for all of us, not just women.

Workaholics, Inactivity & Disease Risk

According to the result of a recent large-scale study, if you work 55-hours a work or more you are putting your health at risk, increasing your chances of having and even dying from a stroke and, to a slightly lesser extent, getting coronary heart disease.

The researchers looked at the results from twenty-five published and unpublished studies, in a systematic review and meta-analysis. The results come from a large number of people from across the UK, Europe, USA, and Australia making them more robust and believable; 603,828 men and women contributed to the analysis for coronary heart disease risk and 528,908 for stroke.

They found that people who worked for 55 hours or more increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by a modest, but significant, 13% in comparison to people working the standard 35 to 40-hour week. More frightening, working 55 hours or more increased the risk of having a stroke by 33%. In fact, stroke risk increased gradually as working hours increased above standard; working just a few hours more (41-48 hours) increased risk by 10% and working 49-54 hours by 27%.

Stress was obviously implicated in the association between working long hours and disease risk, but the researchers made it clear that sitting still for such a long time can also be blamed. Not forgetting that working 11-hours a day doesn’t leave much time for physical activity. So, workaholics are increasing their risk by being both sedentary and inactive – add in high stress levels and it’s no wonder the research found the risk they did.

Increasing activity and decreasing sedentary time will have a huge impact on your risk of a number of preventable diseases, not just coronary heart disease and stroke. Simply getting up from your desk and walking around for 5-minutes every hour can make a big difference, even if you work a standard 40-hour week – you could pace around when you’re talking on the phone, walk to a kitchen that’s a bit further away from your desk to get your coffee, or fill up a small glass of water so you have to fill-up more frequently. If you do this each hour for 8-hours (40-hour week) you could reduce your sedentary time (and increase your activity) by 40-minutes a day or just under 3.5 hours in a working week. The numbers are even better for those working a 55-hour week, adding up to 55-minutes a day or over 4.5 hours in the working week.

And it is the multitude of health benefits that can be achieved through physical activity that has been partly responsible for over 50’s spending more than £1.5billion a year to keep fit, according to a study by the insurance company RIAS.

You don’t need to wait until you’re 50 to take advantage of the benefits of increasing your physical activity and decreasing the time you spend sitting or standing still – start today. The key is to understand what activities “count” for you. You are probably doing something every day that would help you achieve the levels needed to benefit health – you just need to find out what it is for you. It might be your active commute, lunchtime walk, a round of golf, or simply popping to the shops for a pint of milk.

The KiActiv system will show you what your lifestyle means in the context of the many dimensions of physical activity and give you the tools you need to optimise your lifestyle and health, now and for the future.

“Time to get serious about lifestyle change.”

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, it’s time to get serious about lifestyle change. Prevention is better than treatment for individual health as well as the health of the NHS.”

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for Long Term Conditions

Over 3.3 million people in the UK are living with diabetes, according to the latest figures realised by Diabetes UK – that’s a 60% increase in just 10-years.

These numbers are particularly shocking given that up to 80% of cases of type-2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented. And physical activity has the greatest impact, preventing up to 50% of cases.

Not only is physical activity key to prevention – it should be prescribed at initial diagnosis, before medications, and continued throughout the management of the conditions – it is the recommended treatment for type 2 diabetes, treating the condition and preventing avoidable complications such as amputations, heart attacks and strokes.

It’s a case of moving more and sitting less when it comes to activity to significantly reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Reducing sedentary time (the time you spend sitting down or standing still) is proving to be really important for preventing diabetes. Try to reduce every day to less than 60% of the time you’re awake. So, if you sleep for 8-hours, then be sedentary for less than about 9.5hours a day. So, if you have a desk job, you could try walking around when you’re on the phone, go to a kitchen that’s on a different floor to make your coffee or tea, get smaller glasses of water so you have to go more often – aim to get up from your desk for 5-minutes every hour, it can make a big difference!

Being active means moving more and it’s vital to understand what the right activity is for us – the one we enjoy, the one that “counts” i.e. makes us burn 3 times more calories than we do when we’re resting (3METs or what the government guidelines call moderate-intensity activity). Crucially, activity doesn’t have to mean exercise! if you enjoy going to for a run or taking a Zumba class, then great! But, there are plenty of ways you can be more active every day – take the stairs, walk around the shops, play an extra 9 holes of golf, whatever “counts” for you – one size doesn’t fit all!

You’re never too old to be active & reduce your heart failure risk

The evidence tells us that being physically active can help prevent numerous non-communicable diseases, including heart failure, but the exact dose we need to make the most of this potent medicine isn’t clear.

A large study which followed 33,012 Swedish men from 1998 to 2012 suggests that as little as 20-minutes a day of walking or cycling is associated with a 21% lower risk of heart failure.

The men, who had an average age of 60, were asked about how active they were when they were 30, as well their activity in the past year. The results suggested that recent activity was more important for reducing heart failure risk than past behaviour – so, no matter how active you were in the past, being active now will benefit your health.

But we can’t just focus on one type or dimension of physical activity – the total amount of activity the men were doing was really important for reducing risk, but only up to a certain amount, after that risk was increased again.

The researchers used the Compendium of Physical Activity to give each activity the men reported doing a MET (metabolic equivalent) value – rest is defined as 1 MET, walking is 3.6 MET etc. The MET value was multiplied by number of hours spent doing that activity to give MET-hours, which are added together to give a daily amount (MET-hours per day).

Men who did 41MET-hours per day had the lowest risk. If we account for 8-hours of sleep (0.9MET, or 7.2MET-hours per day) and 20-minutes of walking or cycling (3.6MET, or 1.2MET-hours per day), that leaves 32.6MET-hours per day needed to achieve the optimum benefits seen in this study – this represents an active lifestyle.

So, a moderate level of activity is definitely better than little or no activity, and there might be such a thing as too much activity, when it comes to heart failure risk. Including at least 20-minutes a day of walking or cycling can help reduce your risk as part of an active lifestyle. Physical activity is multidimensional – one size doesn’t fit all – there are many ways you can be active throughout every day to improve your health and reduce your risk of heart failure. Importantly, it’s never too late to start!

Should Activity Be A Vital Sign?

That’s the question being posed on the Avery Dennison blog. Click here to see what they have to say and to find out how our KiActiv HealthCheck provides a solution.

How much physical activity do we need to do to stay healthy and live longer?

This is one of the most important questions in the modern world, where physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide. In fact, today the Department for Culture Media and Sport will urge more Britons to take up sport after finding around a quarter of British adults report doing less than 30-minutes of exercise a week.

This comes on the same day as research from France reporting that even low dose of physical activity reduces the risk of early death in adults over 60 years old. The researchers looked at nine other studies and analysed the data together, in what’s called a systematic review and meta-analysis – a method often considered to be “gold standard” for developing public health guidelines. They found that people who reported doing 75 to 149-minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week had a 22% lower risk of dying prematurely compared to people doing no physical activity. Importantly, and the bit that perhaps wasn’t reported so well, is that the more physical activity people reported, the more they reduced their risk – 150-299 minutes of physical activity reduced risk by 28%, with a 35% lower risk in those reporting 300-minutes or more.

But, both these reports focus on the sport or other structured activity that people report doing – relying on people understanding what activity “counts” and remembering how much of this type activity they did and for how long. Realistically, people forget. They are also less likely to report the walk to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, or walking up the stairs instead of using the elevator. But, these activities that we all do as part of our everyday lives can also benefit our health.

When it comes to physical activity, doing some is better than doing nothing but doing more is better. Crucially, we need to understand what activities “count” for us – it’s likely we are all already doing something that would help us meet the guidelines – we just need to find out what it is for us. For some it’s a weekly Zumba class, for others it’s a round of golf, it may even be walking the dog or going shopping.

In truth, there are different ways of harnessing the protective properties of physical activity because it has many dimensions, each known to have clear biological and health benefits. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv system, created by our partners at the University of Bath, enhance understanding and inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity for a longer, healthier life.