Regular Exercise not Enough

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A new study by Dr. David Alter highlights the hazards of physical inactivity.
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Sedentary activities and high blood sugar levels carry the same level of risk of death.

Sedentary activities—such as sitting while watching TV or working at your computer—are the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide. To counteract this, the World Health Organization recommends that adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity—such as walking or cycling—per week. However, a recent study published by TRI Senior Scientist Dr. David Alter suggests that this may not be enough to completely eliminate the negative health effects linked to sedentary activity.

Dr. Alter's research team identified 41 studies conducted in different countries worldwide that examined the relationship between the length of time spent sitting and a variety of diseases and conditions. By performing a careful statistical analysis of the results of these studies, the research team found that the longer that a person sits, the greater their risk of dying of or developing heart disease, type II diabetes or cancer. Even people who participate in regular physical activities are at risk, albeit a lower risk than those who remain inactive.

"Our results and others reaffirm the need for greater public awareness about the hazards linked to physical inactivity and justify further research to explore the effectiveness of new approaches to minimize it," says Dr. Alter.

This work was supported by the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Toronto Rehab Foundation.

Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, Bajaj RR, Silver MA, Mitchell MS, Alter DA. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2015 January 20[Pubmed abstract]