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Physical Inactivity, Not Just Lack of Exercise, Harms Health

Sedentary behavior and lack of movement associated with higher mortality

FRIDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Sedentary behavior and a lack of whole-body movement are independent predictors of increased mortality and increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, regardless of level of physical exercise, according to an article published online Feb. 4 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues argue that sedentary behavior has become an erroneous synonym for lack of exercise, when it should be defined as muscular inactivity, and that a new paradigm of inactivity physiology has emerged.

There are four tenets underlying the new paradigm -- that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for disease; that sedentary behavior is a distinct type of behavior, not an absence of exercise; that the body responds differently to prolonged sitting and physical exercise; and that long periods of sedentary behavior exacerbate the disease risk associated with lack of physical activity, the researchers argue.

"We are dealing with two distinct behaviors and their effects: (1) the benefits of regular moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical exercise and (2) the risks of too much sitting and limited non-exercise everyday life activity," the authors write. "If found to be true, the clinical importance and implication of this new paradigm is extensive. In the future, the focus in clinical practice and guidelines should not only be to promote and prescribe exercise, but also to encourage people to maintain their intermittent levels of non-exercise daily activities."

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