Can exercise positively affect the potentially harmful effects of sitting? There has been plenty of back-and-forth on this question over the years. Some research has found that while sitting too much is harmful to health, exercise can mitigate the risks. Other studies have warned that no amount of exercise offers any protective effect. Recently, the American Heart Association released a science advisory supporting the conclusions that fall into the latter category.
The AHA released its advisory after completing a review of current research. Findings showed that U.S. adults are inactive for 6–8 hours per day. Those over age 60 are sedentary for 8.5–9.5 hours daily. As previous research has demonstrated, sedentary behaviors are associated with increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of early death. Unfortunately, the AHA doesn’t think any amount of exercise can counteract all of those hours spent sitting or lying down.
“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” said Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena and chair of the AHA statement.
The statement added that more effort should be made to determine specific recommendations as to how much sedentary and active time is appropriate for optimal health. In the meantime, the researchers offered a simple solution based on what they do know: “Given the current state of the science on sedentary behavior and in the absence of sufficient data to recommend quantitative guidelines, it is appropriate to promote the advisory, ‘Sit less, move more.’”
The AHA advisory was published in Circulation (2016. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000440).