From an evolutionary perspective, humans were designed to move—to locomote and engage in all manner of manual labor throughout the day. This was essential to our survival as a species. The shift from a physically demanding life to one with fewer physical challenges and more sitting has been relatively recent, occurring during a tiny fraction of human existence.
The majority of clinical and basic research has focused on the benefits of incorporating regular bouts of exercise into modern life to adjust to some extent for the loss of the physically active life led by our ancestors. This is where we get our ideas about getting in least 20-30 minutes of cardio per day, and similar “common knowledge” health recommendations. However, this is no longer an adequate perspective. More recent evidence suggests that the long-term health consequences of habitual sedentary behavior (too much sitting) are separate from those associated with a lack of exercise. This means that getting the recommended amount of exercise per week is not counteracting the negative effects of sitting too much. On the other hand, this can be positive for people who struggle to fit 20-30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio work into their daily routine because they can significantly positively impact their health by simply standing more, taking frequent sitting breaks, and increasing low-intensity activities like walking from the back of the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Increased sitting has been linked to higher rates of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease in the long term. More concretely, sitting immediately affects the muscular, endocrine and digestive systems. While sitting, your large postural support muscles such as the quadriceps and glutes aren’t doing anything. Engagement in these muscles from activities as simple as standing generate electrical signals that initiate other healthy actions in the body, like processes that remove noxious fats from the bloodstream. The good news is getting up and walking around at least twice an hour can keep your skeletal muscles turned on and lower the risk of disease. Benefits have been shown in breaks as short as 4 minutes.
These findings have changed much about how we think about physical health and the role that movement may play in the underlying, essential functionality of our bodies. New studies are exploring if a daily quantity of light-activity neuromuscular stimulation is necessary to sustain vital components of musculoskeletal and metabolic health.
We’ll be posting on our social media ideas for how to work more movement into your day to day, and sharing how we’re trying to move more ourselves! Follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and tell us how you’re moving more by tagging us and using the hashtag #movementmatters!