Olympics a reminder of importance of exerciseBy Dr. Vieta Bland / August 12, 2016
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In honor of the Olympics, The Lancet, a well-respected medical journal, has reported on several studies that are examining how physical activity affects our health. This is the second time The Lancet has taken the opportunity of the Olympics to bring awareness to inactivity and its effects upon our health.
During the last Olympics in 2012, researchers overwhelmingly asserted that physical inactivity was a killer. They estimated that inactivity leads to 5.3 million premature deaths yearly worldwide. This is as many premature deaths caused by smoking and twice as many premature deaths associated with obesity. These facts prompted the creation of public health campaigns that touted “Sitting is the New Smoking” and “Prolonged Sitting is Killing You.”
It is no secret that being physically fit is a desired state for most of us. It is no secret that most people do not achieve that goal. Certainly, our society says it wants us to live an active lifestyle, but work and activities such as television watching and video conferencing with personal computers or phones often get in the way. How much are these activities affecting our longevity?
There are so many people in our society who work an eight hour job that requires them to sit. What can be done to fight the effects of sitting all day long?
There is hope. Dr. Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo, Norway and Cambridge University (United Kingdom ) has looked at this problem. He found that it is possible to reduce or eliminate these risks if we increase our activity enough. He says this can be done without taking up a sport or going to the gym.
The study looked at more than one million people and found that the health risk of sitting eight hours a day can be offset by one hour of moderate to intense activity. Examples would be brisk walking at 3.5 miles per hour or bicycling at 10 miles per hour.
Here in the US, it is recommended that people exercise 30 minutes, five times a week.
Dr. Ekelund says, “For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time. For those people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s going for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work. An hour of physical exertion is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can reduce the risk.”
The editors of The Lancet further stated, “The world needs to get serious about physical activity. The study by Dr. Ekelund and colleges shows how regular activity can diminish the increased mortality risk of prolonged sitting and should help shift the current focus on reducing sitting times alone to more emphasis on regular activity.”
So let us allow the Olympics to inspire us all to be more active each and every day.
Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Email Dr. Bland at .