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My daily exercise session consists of walking in place for about 20 minutes, several times during the day, and some arm exercises with four-pound weights.
Doesn’t seem like much, but at least I’m getting away from my desk once every few hours and standing up.
Some recent research has made me feel a lot better about what I consider to be a pretty minimal exercise program. The research insists that even a little bit of physical activity every day can improve our health — but I was shocked at just how little…
We already know that daily exercise reduces the risk of age-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and numerous cancers.
The bad news: we spend way too much time sitting. The good news: it appears that just standing up — without doing any vigorous activity — can cause measurable improvements in your health and reduce your risk for those diseases!
Just standing up can improve your health
A study published in the Journals of Gerontology this month found that simply standing instead of sitting was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
As part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a research team at UC San Diego School of Medicine observed activity levels of nearly 6000 women ages 63 to 97.
The WHI is a long-term study started in 1991. It focuses on strategies for preventing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Participants in the recently published study wore an electronic tracker that measured how much time they spent sitting, standing still or moving each day.
Women who spent the most time standing had a 37 percent lower risk of death than those who didn’t stand up as often. And, this lowered risk of death was evident in women who stood still for as little as 30 minutes per day.
“Standing is a feasible approach to interrupt long periods of time sitting that takes place throughout the day,” said John Bellettiere, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We find this most beneficial for older adults who may not be able to partake in moderate-to-vigorous activities anymore, but can still follow a healthy aging lifestyle safely just by replacing sitting with standing up more.”
In other words, even if you can no longer do vigorous exercise, just standing up at regular intervals and avoiding a completely sedentary lifestyle can increase your healthspan or the number of years you’ll get to live a healthy, disease-free, productive life.
Active older adults have better physical and mental health
A study from the American Cancer Society reinforces that sitting less and moving more is good for your physical and mental health.
Researchers analyzed the activity of nearly 78,000 participants in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, a long-term study of cancer incidence and mortality that began in 1992.
Participants reported on their aerobic and strength-building exercises, as well as their sitting time. Included were cancer survivors of up to 10 years post-diagnosis, as well as cancer-free adults.
Regardless of their cancer history, the differences in mental and physical health between the most and least active people, and between the least and most sedentary, were found to be clinically significant.
Not a surprise, really, but yet another reminder of how important it is to get up and move every day, the older we get.
“The findings reinforce the importance of moving more and sitting less for both physical and mental health, no matter your age or history of cancer,” said Dr. Erika Rees-Punia, lead investigator of this study.
“This is especially relevant now as so many of us, particularly cancer survivors, may be staying home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, and may be feeling a little isolated or down. A simple walk or other physical activity that you enjoy may be good for your mind and body.”
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Even minimal physical activity measurably boosts health — Science Daily