Even before we all had to shelter in place due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, sitting was the default posture for too many people. In fact, studies reveal the danger of spending up to 10 hours (or more!) each day sitting. No doubt, the number of people sitting around (too much) has likely increased due to these “stay-at-home” orders. Simply put, we know that prolonged sitting has some major health risks like, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Specifically, sitting for extended periods can result in a later rise in triglyceride levels, and higher levels of triglycerides are linked to an increased risk of various metabolic problems and heart disease. However, one new study found that implementing a four-second exercise “habit” (revealed below) may help prevent health damage.
Long periods of sitting creates difficulties with metabolism, even with exercise
It’s true, we know that long periods of sitting create difficulties with metabolism and can result in higher levels of triglycerides, even if you exercise. In fact, studies done at the University of Texas in the past found young people who sat all day had high levels of triglycerides.
However, even when they did a one-hour run daily, they still had problems with fat metabolism. Researchers hypothesized that the long hours of sitting might change the body’s physiology and make it less responsive to the normal metabolic benefits of exercise.
However, those earlier studies looked at “moderately paced” workouts. More recently, researchers started to wonder if doing brief spurts of physical activity frequently throughout the day, particularly intense periods of exercise, might have better results.
Discover a 4-second “habit” that helps to prevent the health risks associated with sitting too long
In this new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, scientists took eight young, healthy women and men and had them spend an entire day seated in the lab. They only got up to use the restroom or eat. Then, the next day they had a high-fat breakfast in the lab while the metabolic response of their bodies was monitored by scientists.
For the second part of the study, volunteers again sat all day, but every hour they sprinted for a few seconds. These sprints were done on a stationary bicycle that has no resistance and a heavy flywheel – a bike that’s been used for testing the lung and leg power of pro athletes at the University of Texas physiology lab. While athletes usually reached all-out exertion in two seconds, scientists believed that most people would be able to reach that level in four seconds.
Volunteers sprinted for four seconds, rested for 45 seconds, and then sprinted again, doing this sequence five times each hour for eight hours of the day. That totaled 160 seconds of exercise throughout the day. The results – volunteers had lower levels of triglycerides the next day when they returned to the lab for their high-fat breakfast shake, and they burned more fat during the following six hours.
While the study was only short-term and small, this information may give us useful insights going forward. Bottom line: exercise is essential, but (if done infrequently) may not help to mitigate the negative impact of sitting – too long – all day.
Now there’s evidence that short bursts of activity, particularly intense activity, do offer results. Try applying this to your life by getting up more frequently and getting some “intensity” back into your daily routine. Even if it’s only for a few seconds, the effort could prove to be a lifesaver.