In 2012, The Lancet published a study on physical activity which concluded that physical inactivity is as important a modifiable risk factor for chronic diseases as obesity and tobacco. More recently, in 2016, a second study was published which included the results of epidemiological research, global surveillance, intervention strategies, and policy actions.
As a full-time lawyer and fitness enthusiast, I found the studies results and analysis on how to make up for a sedentary lifestyle most interesting. While I wish I could be on my feet on all day, whether it be through workouts, walking around NYC, running to and from meetings, or even working at a standing desk, I find myself, like many others predominately sitting at a desk for my waking hours during the work week. Typically, I am at my desk from 9:00 a.m. to approximately 6:00 p.m., only getting up and moving to grab lunch, use the restroom, refill my water bottle, or run copies of motions and reports to my boss.
The 2016 study opined that we may be able to make up for our increased risk of death due to a sedentary lifestyle, thanks in large part to our corporate desk jobs, by engaging in enough physical activity. The research concluded that this is not a fixed number of minutes or hours of exercise, rather the amount of exercise you need to overcome this sedentary lifestyle is a ratio based on the amount of sitting we do daily. For every 4 hours we spend sitting, we need at least 30 minutes of exercise. For those of us who work a typical 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (or even 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) we need at least one hour of exercise everyday.
The Lancet study analyzed a pool of people consisting of approximately 1 million adults, aged 45 years old and older, from the United States, Western Europe, and Australia. The findings showed that increasing physical exercise based on this ratio showed a reduced risk or even elimination of our risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. The findings also suggest that the person who sits longer isn't necessarily worse off. Those who sat for 8 or more hours a day but were physically active were better off in terms of risk of death than those who sat for fewer hours but were not physically active.
Some of you, especially those who work hours far longer than a typical 8 hour work day, may be wondering how you can possibly exercise enough in one day to meet the recommended amount. Researchers have explained that the activity could be anything from brisk walking, to interval training, to weight training and everything in between. Specifically, the exercise does not need to be rigorous. The exercise can also be spread out over the entire day (think getting off the subway a stop early to walk home, taking the stairs whenever possible, walk to pick up lunch rather than have lunch delivered, etc).