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.

The NHS is wasting money

Millions of pounds are being wasted each year on unnecessary treatments for heart attacks and strokes, according to leading cardiologists.

Writing in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, Dr Aseem Malhotra and colleagues give a number of examples of patients being given expensive treatments that haven’t actually been proven to work. Not only are these unnecessary treatments costing the NHS at least £2.4billion a year overall, they also mean patients having serious operations that they don’t actually need.

Wouldn’t it be better to use this money to prevent people ever getting these preventable diseases?

Even in prevention, money is being spent unnecessarily mass-medicating healthy people. A year ago the threshold for prescription of statins to at risk patients was lowered to include those judged to have a 10-20% risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10-years. Statins are now prescribed to around 10 million people in Britain. Not only do drug prescriptions cost money, doctor’s are of the opinion that healthy people given statins are more likely to suffer side-effects than gain benefits. Frighteningly, statins have been linked with an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes – a disease that already affects over 3.3 million people in the UK and has been predicted to bankrupt the NHS.

So, what would happen if doctors prescribed physical activity instead of statins?

Aside from the massive cost-saving effect this would have, people would become healthier overall. They would significantly reduce their risk of numerous preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and the dislipidemia that would have resulted in a prescription for statins.

Physical activity is the single most important thing we can all do for our health – it gives you the most “bang for your buck”, impacting on more diseases than any single pill the doctor could prescribe. And, even better, physical activity is medicine without side effects, just benefits.

It’s important to recognise that physical activity is as individual as you are – the activity that “counts” isn’t the same for everyone. The right activity for you could be anything from walking to buy the paper in the morning, cycling or walking as part of your daily commute, playing with the kids, or doing the gardening, to more structured exercise like going to the gym, playing football, or running. Even something as small as getting up for 5-minutes every hour can have huge health benefits. Understanding your activity is the key, that’s why we created KiActiv System.

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.