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Exercise Hard During Free Time to Offset Workday Sitting

Workers who exercise hard during their time off are less likely to develop big bellies, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome despite sedentary jobs.

It has been suggested that sitting is the new smoking. Having a sedentary job that requires you to sit and stare at a computer screen all day is bad for your health. Can you offset the danger if you exercise hard in your leisure time?

Exercise Hard to Overcome Hazards of Sedentary Work:

Brazilian researchers found that Navy employees who had desk jobs were able to counteract the negative effect of their sedentary work by exercising vigorously during their leisure time. If they engaged in at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise daily, they could ward off abdominal adiposity (aka big belly), high blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol. These are all markers for metabolic syndrome, which in turn increases the risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Vieira Browne et al, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online, July 24, 2017 

There have been many previous studies showing that people benefit if they exercise hard. Researchers have found that people with colon cancer who meet physical activity guidelines are less likely to die of their cancer. The guidelines call for 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise.

Leisure time activity also benefits heart health. What matters most is moving. It isn’t necessary to go to the gym to exercise hard and get the health benefits.

Can Older People Exercise Hard?

Previous research has found that there is no age limit on the benefits from physical activity.

Even one day a week of exercise may produce measurable benefits in older women. In one study, 63 women over 60 years of age were divided into three groups. One group was given combined aerobic and resistance training one day a week. Another exercised twice a week (also combined aerobic and resistance training), while the third group had three exercise sessions each week. The study lasted for 16 weeks.

To the investigators’ surprise, all three groups improved their strength and cardiovascular fitness. There were no significant differences among the groups when the four months were up.

At the beginning of the study the average participant’s heart rate was 110 beats per minute while the women were walking 3 miles per hour. At the end of the study, their average heart rate had dropped to 92 beats per minute at the same rate of speed. The investigators concluded that even as little as one exercise session a week can provide measurable benefit for older women’s health and quality of life.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Aug 30, 2013


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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