To Your Health: Sedentary Death Syndrome?

To Your Health: Sedentary Death Syndrome?

In this blog, we will explore some of the consequences of being sedentary and some of the multiple benefits of exercising. Is there a “sedentary death syndrome,” in which an individual dies from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or myriad other related cause, due, at least in part, to too little physical activity? Many epidemiologists who study physical activity believe there is.




Or this? Could be a matter of life and death.

Or this? Could be a matter of life and death.

Studies conclude that physical inactivity contributes to 334,000 deaths annually in United States and to more than 5 million deaths worldwide.

The World Health Organization lists physical inactivity as the fourth leading cause of non-communicable disease, behind only high blood pressure, smoking, and hyperglycemia. Moreover, the prevalence of physical inactivity worldwide is also growing to a point it is considered a pandemic. Multiple strategies will be required to reverse the trend toward less physical activity and its deleterious effects on body weight, diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies.

The AHA recommends clinicians contribute to this effort by taking an exercise history and by recommending that patients try to achieve the present national physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes weekly of activities such as brisk walking.

The association between jogging and mortality was evaluated by following 1098 healthy joggers and 3950 healthy non-joggers. Lowest mortality was associated with 1 to 2.4 hours of jogging per week, no more than three times per week, and slow and average pace. When grouped into light, moderate, or strenuous joggers based on quantity, frequency, and pace, light joggers were associated with lowest mortality, followed by moderate joggers.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published the first Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In the guidelines, they recommended at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity. But whether this amount of exercise equates to the ideal has not been determined for certain.

A recent JAMA study looked at 661,000 adults over 14 years and stratified them by their weekly exercise time: those who did not exercise at all to those who worked out about 10 times the current recommendations (25 hours a week or more). People who did not exercise at all were the highest risk of early death.

Surprisingly, however, those who exercised only a little (not meeting the current recommendations, but doing something), lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.

Those who exercised the recommended 150 minutes a week lowered their risk of early death by 31 percent.

So what about more exercise than the recommended amount?

Here are also some surprising results.

Those who exercised triple the recommended amount of time, 450 minutes per week (or a little more than an hour per day), lowered their risk the most, a whopping 39 percent.

Exercising beyond this 450 minutes (10 times or more than the recommended) did not see benefits beyond those who just exercised the 150 minutes. Those avid exercisers also did not decrease their risk of dying young.

What’s the bottom line?

Two things.

First, make sure you exercise every day. It could lower the risk of premature death by 20 percent.

Second, if you want to benefit the most from exercise (and lowering your risk about 39 percent), try to get about an hour a day of exercise.

Exercise has multiple benefits including helping prevent metabolic syndrome.

What exactly is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that make a person more likely to get heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.

To have metabolic syndrome, a person must meet at least three of these five conditions:

1. Obesity with a large belly – Doctors use the term “obese” for people who have a “body mass index” or “BMI” of 30 or more. A large belly means a waist measurement greater than 40 inches for men or greater than 35 inches for women.

Based on measurements of visceral adipose tissue and subcutaneous adipose tissue in more than 1,000 middle-aged adults, higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as reported at baseline, was associated with a greater change in visceral adipose tissue volume over six years. So avoid sugary drinks.

2. High blood pressure – Blood pressure measurements have two numbers. For instance, your doctor might say your blood pressure is “140 over 90.” The top number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is contracting. The bottom number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed. You have high blood pressure if the top number is 130 or higher; the bottom number is 85 or higher; you take medicine for high blood pressure

3. High blood sugar – All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. You have high blood sugar if your blood sugar is greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL when tested after you have not had anything to eat or drink (except water) for eight hours. This is known as a “fasting” blood sugar test.

4. High triglycerides – Triglycerides are fat-like substances in the blood. You have high triglycerides if your triglycerides are higher than 150 mg/dL.

5. Low HDL cholesterol – HDL is the “good cholesterol.” That’s because having high HDL levels lowers your risk of heart attacks and other health problems. You have a low HDL cholesterol if your HDL is less than 40 mg/dL if you’re a man or less than 50 mg/dL if you’re a woman.

Some doctors don’t think it is important use the term “metabolic syndrome” for this group of conditions. That’s because the treatment of the metabolic syndrome is no different than the treatment of each of the conditions. So, giving a special name to the problem is not really required,

The best and safest treatment to deal with any of these conditions is to lose weight by eating less and exercising more. Losing weight will help your waist size, your triglyceride levels, and your high blood pressure.

Inactivity can lead to increased risks of diseases, such as heart disease or colon cancer. Even low intensity exercises, like walking or stretching, can make a huge impact on your health, so get off your butt to reduce your risk and extend your life.

Editor’s Note: 

Our relationship with Dr. Alan Safdi started several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. Dr. Safdi, is a gastroenterologist with a talent for offering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. We next heard him speak at Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, where the audience got just taste of his encyclopedic knowledge on mind-body wellness. To fill in the gaps, Telluride Inside… and Out plans to post nuggets from Dr. Safdi regularly.

More about Dr. Alan Safdi:

Dr. Alan Safdi
Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor, and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program, “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in over 581 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastoenterology.

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