Heart Sense Helpathon: Sixth in a Series

Mini Exercises(Beware of Sitting for Too Long at One Time)

I can’t leave our discussion of exercise without talking about mini exercises throughout the day to counteract our terribly sedentary lifestyles.  I confess I sit far too long every day.  I, like Peter Janiszewski, have to make a plan to change that.  And so do you.  Almost all of us sit too long.  Think about it.  We sit at our computers to write, do research, communicate by e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and more, and play games.  We sit to eat.  We sit to read.  We sit driving in our cars and on other transportation. We sit to chat on the telephone and when friends come over to visit.  We sit to watch movies and TV shows.  I am a writer and so I sit a lot at the computer.  When I was writing the heart failure book with Edward Kasper, both of us considered investing in a stand-up desk because, frankly, the part of your body you sit on for long times can start to go numb, and it is just not good for your circulation to sit for long periods.  But the health effects of being sedentary go farther.

Who is Peter Janiszewski, you may ask?  He is co-author with Travis Saunders of a delightfully written and highly informative and helpful blog called Obesity Panacea which you can find here at the PLoS (Public Library of Science) blogging network.  Please read their series of excellent blog posts about how sitting long periods harms your health and may cut short your life.  Break up your sitting pattern, they urge, by frequently getting up and doing mini exercises and other activities.  


This get-you-to-your-feet set of articles begins with a five-part series on sedentary physiology by Travis Saunders. In Part 1, Travis really got my attention with this simple fact: “sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.”  He says he borrows this line from Marc Hamilton, one of the leading researchers in sedentary physiology.  But I heard it on Obesity Panacea. 

In Part 2, he reports that a study of over 17,000 Canadians found that “individuals who sat the most were roughly 50% more likely to die during the follow-up period than individuals who sat the least, even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels.”

In Part 3 Travis discusses the benefits of taking breaks from sitting.  He reports on another study that found “The greater the number of breaks taken from sedentary behavior, the lower the waist circumference, body mass index, as well as blood lipids and glucose tolerance.”

Some readers responding to this popular series wondered how much sitting time was too much and whether it helped enough just to get up and go do some chore or whether you need to exercise every so often throughout the day.

Peter Janiszewski responded to his blogging partner with a not-to-be-missed post My Home-Based Mini-Exercise Regimen.  

“Essentially, I decided (completely arbitrarily) that I would do mini exercise breaks throughout my workday, with the daily goal of reaching 450 repetitions of whatever random movement popped into my head at each break.”Peter got an enormous reader response to that blog post and followed up by sharing suggestions from readers.  For instance, reader Dirk Hanson said this:  “I’ve started arranging things in a way that requires me to bounce up from my desk at various intervals for 15-minute chore breaks–watering all the house plants, filling the bird feeders, vacuuming one room, making coffee, getting something out of the garage, taking a brief walk, whatever.”I am so impressed with this fine blog and its authors.  Here, reprinted from their PLoS blog site, are bios for Travis and Peter.  Please visit them often. A good prescription for your health.

As for me, I will break up my long sitting periods.  But, I warn you, it’s hard to do, at least at first.  I want to turn now to finishing the syllabus for the spring writing course I teach.  But I would need to keep sitting here to do that and I can’t because now it’s time to get up and do marching exercises or use my leg press or go play with the dog or walk through the house looking at the ceilings to see if there are any cobwebs in the corners.  Jeez, I’ve got to work on the balance of all this. Up, down.  Concentrating, distraction.  Writing, not writing.  But, otherwise: Better health, not health?

Hey, it’s cheating to get up from sitting and go to the fridge.