It’s Not Always the Workouts That Count

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

July 01, 2013

  • Are you a “constant mover” or a “workout warrior?”
  • Vigorous exercise doesn’t make up for hours spent sitting
  • How to gently move your body throughout the day

Okay, here’s a little quiz for you.

Let’s say you have two groups of people who all have desk jobs. But each group deals with their sedentary jobs in different ways.

We’ll call the first group “constant movers.” These are people who never seem to exercise, but are always in motion.

Some of them start with walking their dog in the morning. They walk up the stairs to get to their office, walk to the restaurant down the street on lunch break, then go home and walk the dog again.

On weekends they head out to play golf, swim at the beach or pool, or just stay at home to work in the yard or straighten up the house.

The second group is called “workout warriors.”

These are the folks who sit at their desk throughout the day. They take the elevator up to the office, eat lunch at their desk and watch TV or play on the computer when they get home.

But they make up for it.

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For about an hour every morning or evening, they perform vigorous workouts. These folks work up a heart-pounding sweat doing squats, crunches, jump-thrusts heavy running and everything in between.

So, which group do you think has the fewer health risks?

Would you say the workout warriors?

That’s what most people would guess. After all, we’ve heard all about the benefits of vigorous exercise.

But it’s not the correct answer.

When push comes to shove, it’s not that one, single hour you spend exercising that counts the most. More important is the amount of time you spend moving your body throughout the day instead of sitting.

Let me explain…

Until recently we’ve always thought getting a good hour of exercise every day would “undo” the effects of sitting behind a desk all day.

Now we’re finding it just doesn’t work that way.

You see, sitting for hours on end is a completely unnatural state for the human body. Our bodies were designed for movement.

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Throughout history we humans have tracked and chased animals to provide meat. We’ve always grown and dug up our own fruits and vegetables. And when things were bad, we trekked across miles of land in search of more fertile soil and better hunting grounds.

Now we eat dinner from boxes. A hard day’s work involves sitting for hours upon end at our desks (after sitting in our cars for an hour or so to get there!) Once we get home (after more sitting in the car) we sit (or lay) down to watch TV, get on the internet or talk on the phone.

Study after study shows people who sit for long periods of time have greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and death from all causes. And the more time you spend sitting during the day, the greater the risk.

For example, a recent meta-analysis out of the United Kingdom pulled together data from 18 “sitting” studies. When the researchers compiled the data, they discovered those who moved least during the day had…

  • 112% increase in the relative risk of diabetes
  • 147% increased risk of a cardiovascular event
  • 90% increase of cardiovascular death
  • 49% increase in death from any cause

And even when the study subjects took time out for moderate to vigorous exercise, the longer periods of sitting still presented an increased health risk.

Apparently, all of that sitting makes your body unable to process sugars and fat properly. So they end up floating around in your bloodstream and arteries… affecting your cardiovascular health, blood sugar and insulin response, weight, and overall health.

In fact, research shows just a single day of prolonged sitting can have a negative impact on your glucose and insulin levels. However, getting up for 2 minutes of activity every 20 minutes or so can greatly improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

I always tell my patients that one of the most important things they can do to safeguard their health is to gently move their body throughout the day. And I constantly stress this same concept to my readers.

This doesn’t involve a gym membership. But if you want to head over to the gym, I’m all for it. Every little thing you can do to keep moving counts. And that includes all the things you do during the day.

So here are some tips to keep you moving…

At the office:

Always use the stairs: If you work in a building that has an elevator, ditch the free ride and use the stairs instead.

Walk during phone calls. Every time you pick up the phone, stand up and start moving around. If you need to take notes you can lean over the desk while keeping your feet in motion.

Take frequent “movement” breaks. The American Heart Association recommends taking 10,000 steps every day. If you take a five minute walk every half hour while at work you can get most of those steps in. If you can’t leave your desk, just “walk in place” to accomplish the task.

At home:

Take a walk every morning and evening. I always suggest my patients walk for 30 minutes each morning and evening. And if you take your walks at the same time each day, it will quickly become a “habit.” I only have one catch. When you’re walking add in a few good bursts of intensity. Toss in a brisk walk, jog or even sprint every now and then.

Does the TV have you captivated? You don’t have to be sitting or lying down to watch television. Walk around, straighten up the house, do some jumping jacks while keeping up with your favorite shows and movies.

Discover fun activities. Take up bicycling, go swimming, join a dance class, or work in the garden… anything that gets you up and moving.

None of these activities are hard, and most of them are pretty enjoyable. And the benefits are undeniable.

Gently moving your body throughout the day will help reduce your weight, relieve stress, improve your heart health, increase metabolism and fuel your body with energy. Try it out. I’ll bet you love the results.


Wilmot EG, et al. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2012 Nov;55(11):2895-905. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

University of Leicester, news release, Oct. 15, 2012

Stephens BR, et al. Effects of 1 day of inactivity on insulin action in healthy men and women: interaction with energy intake. Metabolism. 2011 Jul;60(7):941-9. Epub 2010 Nov 10.

Dunstan DW, et al. Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care. 2012 May;35(5):976-83. Epub 2012 Feb 28

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