Adarsh Gupta, DO

Sitting may not be mean sedentary! Learn how to reduce sedentary behavior.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently developed new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior with a goal of reducing physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 15% by 2030. One of the components they emphasized is the distinction between “sitting” and “sedentary behavior”. In this article, we will learn this difference and utilize multiple ways to reduce sedentary behavior in your current routine without using any exercise equipment.

Key Messages

  • Differentiates “sitting” from “sedentary”
  • Some physical activity is better than none
  • Highlight the importance of regularly undertaking both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities
  • Tips to reduce sedentary behaviors

“Sitting” versus “Sedentary Behavior”

The new WHO 2020 physical activity guidelines make a clear distinction between “sitting” versus “sedentary behavior. They decided to opt-out of using the term “sitting” and use “sedentary behavior” in their guidelines. Although “sitting” is the most commonly used term to describe inactivity in severe national guidelines, it does not reflect the true meaning of inactivity. A person with a disability or low mobility may be referred to as sitting, but that does not mean he is not active. He could be using his upper extremity to do most of the activities of daily living. The message we were trying to convey through the term “sitting” can be better portrayed in the term “sedentary behavior.” Even the person with full mobility can have sedentary behavior.

Since these new guidelines also include recommendations for people with disabilities, the term “sedentary behavior” is more appropriate. People who are limited to wheelchairs and are with low mobility can do multiple things to reduce “sedentary behavior” even while “sitting.” For such people, sedentary time can be minimized through physical activity while remaining seated.

Increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors (WHO guidelines)

Children and adolescents (aged 5–17 years), including those living with a disability
  • Children and adolescents should do at least an average of 60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity, across the week;
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone, should be incorporated at least 3 days a week.
  • Children and adolescents should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary, particularly the amount of recreational screen time.
  • Some examples include:
    • Encourage your child to try a new activity, such as dancing, karate, or an organized sport
    • Provide your child with active toys and games.
    • Involve your children in active household chores.
    • Allow time for active play with friends, especially time outdoors.
    • Plan active family weekends to hike, bike or swim together.
Adults (aged 18–64 years) including those with chronic conditions and those living with a disability
  • All adults should undertake the regular physical activity;
  • Adults should do at least 150–300 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75–150 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
  • Adults should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits;
  • To help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behavior on health, adults should aim to do more than the recommended moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels.
  • Some ways to reduce sedentary behavior and increase activity
    • Ride a stationary bike while you are watching TV, reading a book, or talking to someone.
    • Try taking stairs instead of an elevator or escalator whenever possible.
    • Park at the farthest end of the lot; stop searching for the closest parking space.
    • Stand up or take a short walk instead of remaining seated during work breaks.
    • Invest in a fitness tracker and try to add at least 2,000 steps a day. The goal is 10,000 steps per day.
    • Take the dog out for a daily walk; borrow a neighbor’s dog if necessary.
    • Use resistance bands to do strength training exercises at home.
Older adults (aged 65 years and older) including those with chronic conditions and those living with disability
  • As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasises functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity on 3 or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.
Pregnant and postpartum women
  • Undertake regular physical activity throughout pregnancy and postpartum;
  • Do at least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
  • Incorporate a variety of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Adding gentle stretching may also be beneficial. In addition: Women who, before pregnancy, habitually engaged in a vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or who were physically active can continue these activities during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • Pregnant and postpartum women should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits.

Additional on safety considerations when undertaking physical activity for pregnant women are:

  • Avoid physical activity during excessive heat, especially with high humidity;
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after physical activity;
  • Avoid participating in activities which involve physical contact, pose a high risk of falling or might limit oxygenation (such as activities at high altitude, when not normally living at altitude);
  • Avoid activities in supine position after the first trimester of pregnancy;
  • Pregnant women considering athletic competition or exercising significantly above the recommended guidelines should seek supervision from a specialist healthcare provider;
  • Pregnant women should be informed by their healthcare provider of the danger signs for when to stop, or limit physical activity and to consult a qualified healthcare provider immediately if they occur.

Aerobic and Strength Training Activities Recommendations

In both adults and older adults, the new recommendation is to not only do an aerobic activity but also strength training activities. In adults, it is recommended that they should do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, for additional health benefits. In older adults, there is an emphasis on functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity on 3 or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.

Since the loss of strength and muscle mass are the prime causes of most age-related diseases a lifelong strength training program is one of the best insurance policies for a better quality of life for both men and women.

Avoid Muscle Loss

Although endurance exercise improves our cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent the loss of muscle tissue. Only strength training maintains our muscle mass and strength throughout our mid-life years. After the age of 20 up to 1/2 pound of muscle tissue is lost per year in both males and females owing to the normal aging process.

You will see benefits by doing strength training once a week using all the major muscle groups until you are unable to push each exercise for another repetition (3-4 exercises, and 15 -20 minutes max training time.)

Avoid Metabolic Rate Reduction

Because muscle is very active tissue, muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in our resting metabolism. Research indicates that an average adult experiences a 5% reduction in metabolic rate every decade of life. Only high-intensity strength training performed once or twice a week with prescribed rest periods can avoid this.

Increase Muscle Mass

Because most adults do not perform strength exercises, they need to first replace the tissue that has been lost through inactivity. Fortunately, research shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 4 kg or 10 lbs over a ten-week period.

Increase Metabolic Rate

Research reveals that adding 10 lbs of muscle increases our resting metabolism by 7% and our daily calorie requirements by 15%. At rest, 2 lbs of muscle require 77 calories per day for tissue maintenance and during exercise, muscle energy utilization increases dramatically. Adults who replace muscle through sensible strength exercise use more calories all day long thereby reducing the likelihood of fat accumulation.

Reduce Body Fat

In a study, strength exercise produced substantial fat loss after 16 weeks of training.

Strength training helps maintain (or gain) muscle mass which is particularly important in older adults. These activities should start in early adulthood so that as we age, we don’t lose muscle. Muscle is a very important component of our body. It improves functional balance and provides joint stability which is particularly important in older adults. This also keeps your metabolism up. This book discusses simple exercises that anyone can do at home and healthy eating options for everyone. In fact, you can create your own personalized plan and eat the food that you like (you will learn how to make it low calorie), and be active in the comfort of your home.

Source: | Don’t Just Lose Weight, Lose Inches!

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