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Category: Exercise

Sitting at Work? Exercise to Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk

Regular exercise outside of work can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome in people whose jobs have them sitting most of the time, according to a small study from Brazil.

“If you have a sedentary occupation, especially in a sitting position for hours, you should move yourself out of work at least 150 minutes per week in a moderate intensity to mitigate the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior at work,” Eduardo Caldas Costa from Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal reported.

Sedentary behavior has been associated with an increased risk for metabolic syndrome – a cluster of unfavorable markers including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and low HDL “good” cholesterol – which, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers investigated whether Navy workers who spent about eight hours daily seated, mostly in administrative duties, had different risks for metabolic syndrome based on their activity levels outside of work.

All the workers were men, ranging in age from 26 to 42. Out of 502 workers included in the final analysis, 201, or 40 percent, did not achieve at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-vigorous activity. Nearly half, 48 percent, were overweight and almost 19 percent were obese.

After adjusting for age, time in the job, body mass index (BMI) and tobacco use, researchers found the sedentary workers who met the physical activity recommendations were only about half as likely to have metabolic syndrome, compared to those with lower activity levels.

Workers with higher activity levels were also less likely to have abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and low HDL.

Even those who increased their activity slightly (the “insufficiently active” group) had lower blood pressure than workers who remained sedentary off the job, researchers reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Sedentary occupation workers should break up prolonged sitting time at work as much as they can in order to reduce the risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,” Caldas Costa said by email. “Be involved in regular physical activity out of work, including leisure time, domestic activities, and active transportation (i.e., walking and/or cycling).”

Only the physically active group, he added, and not the insufficiently active group, had a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome compared to the sedentary group. “Therefore,” he said, “it seems that probably there is a minimum quantity of physical activity that can mitigate the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior at work.”

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The Benefits of Bicycling

A recent study at the University of Glasgow, published in the British Medical Journal, indicates that those people who bicycle to work are 41 percent less likely to develop heart disease and cancer. While walking has clearly outlined benefits, it does not provide the same payback as bicycling.

The test was conducted with 264,337 people; compared to driving, cycling is linked to a 46 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The same study demonstrated that walking reduced heart disease by 27 percent, but showed no links between lower risks of cancer or premature death.

Researchers and experts believe that the high health benefits of cycling may be linked to the fact that cyclists often travel longer distances, and exercise at higher intensities.

Dr. Jason Gill, a professor and scientist who helped execute the study, believes that the government should legislate easier ways for people to commute by bike, including the creation of “cycle lanes, city bike hire, subsidized cycle purchase schemes, and increasing provision for cycles on public transport.” These efforts have the potential to create significant opportunities for improvement of public health.

Perhaps most importantly, it is imperative to make physical activity both ‘easier and more accessible.’ Workplaces, local authorities, and the legislature should investigate ways to increase and enhance public transport—making it an ‘easy option’ to get to work.

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Move — and Move Often!

While most physicians and nutritionists agree that low to moderate levels of weekly physical activity is often insufficient to significantly reduce body weight, studies indicate that those who transition from little to no daily physical activity to moderate levels have clinically meaningful reductions in cardiometabolic risk.

Scores of controlled trials over the last decade demonstrate that physical activity helps mitigate and reduce cardiometabolic risk via biologic mechanisms, which are not entirely dependent upon body weight or BMI reduction. Research increasingly supports that those who have prediabetes should consistently increase physical activity levels, despite little to no weight loss.

According to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the benefits of physical activity may outweigh the impact of being overweight and/or obese in middle-aged and elderly people. The observational study, conducted with a sample size of over 5,000 people aged 55 years and older, followed up with participants for 15 years. While overweightness and obesity is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and weight loss is recommended, it is slightly different with the elderly population: weight loss, especially unintentional, is often associated with muscle loss and death.

Regardless of age, physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have further demonstrated that physical activity is protective for cardiovascular risk, playing a crucial role in the health of middle-aged and elderly people. Without adequate physical activity, those who are overweight and obese are at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The harmful effects of overweightness and obesity occur through adipose tissue, which accelerates the atherosclerotic process, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk. Exercise and physical activity lowers the harmful effects of atherosclerosis by reducing the stabilization of plagues on blood vessels, ultimately reducing the heart’s oxygen demand. Engaging in high levels of physical activity protects people from the harmful effects of adipose tissue on cardiovascular disease. The idea: move—and move often!

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