You’ve probably heard that Americans spend too much time sitting on their duffs. Well, not much has changed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans still sit too much. In fact, 4 out of 10 adults don’t get any moderate or vigorous exercise on a weekly basis.
Oh, but it gets worse. One in every 10 Americans report that not only do they not exercise enough, but they also spend more than 8 hours a day being physically inactive, the CDC reports in a study published November 20 in the journal JAMA.
The authors write:
“Both high sedentary behavior and physical inactivity have negative health effects. And evidence suggests that the risk of premature mortality is particularly elevated when they occur together.”
Emily Ussery, lead author of the new study and an epidemiologist at the CDC, suggested:
“If you sit a lot at work, for example, then you should try incorporating more physical activity during the week to offset that sitting time.”
For the study, Ussery and her colleagues looked at data from the 2015-16 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included about 5,900 adults. The survey combines both interviews and physical examinations of all the participants.
- Nearly 26% of those surveyed said they sat for more than 8 hours a day, while 45% said they were inactive. Similar patterns were discovered for both men and women.
- Overall, 14% of adults said they spent 6-8 hours a day sitting and didn’t get enough physical activity.
- 11% said they spent more than 8 hours a day sitting while being inactive.
- Another 11% reported sitting for 4 to less than 6 hours a day while being inactive.
- Those who said they spent less than 4 hours a day sitting and exercised enough comprised the smallest group in the study – a mere 3% of respondents.
The study also found that sitting for more than 8 hours a day while not getting enough physical activity increased with age.
Hear it Again – Don’t be Sedentary!
It’s no secret that being sedentary can lead to numerous health problems. In fact, being physically inactive can be more deadly than smoking, previous studies show. A report published in 2011 revealed that sitting too much causes as many as 92,000 cancer cases each year. Yes, a lack of exercise can also lead to obesity and diabetes, as well as heart disease and an increased risk of early death.
In November 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new exercise guidelines for the first time in a decade. The updated guidance is unique in that it states that Americans can get their exercise in small doses. So, if you work odd hours and don’t have time to hit the gym, you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away counts as exercise just as much as riding an exercise bike.
The guidelines also provide more easily attainable goals. For example, you might be overwhelmed at the idea of trying to lose a certain number of pounds or getting your blood pressure down to a certain number, but the guidelines suggest not to focus in on those factors as much, pointing out that being physically active will naturally help improve sleep, cognitive function, mental health, and more.
The overall message of the guidelines is that some exercise is better than none, and Ussery agrees.
“If a person does sit for 8 hours a day for their job, it’s best to reduce some of that sitting time with physical activity, and every little bit of exercise helps.”
“Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, all adds up and can have positive health benefits.”