Studies Prove: Long Term Health Is NOT About Exercising Hard

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My son moving his body because it feels GOOD, not as a part of an exercise plan!!!
My son moving his body because it feels GOOD, not as a part of an exercise plan!!!


For years physicians have been recommending an exercise program for cardiometabolic health.

Well… turns out it’s not really about the intensity of the exercise.


Several landmark studies have come out in the past few months revealing that it’s not how strenuously you exercise that matters.

In fact, it doesn’t matter if you “exercise” at all.


What matters, both in cardiovascular health and in cancer prognosis, among other parameters… is how often you just get up and move around.

Answer this… what do you think is healthier?

Do you think it is better to:


  • Hit the gym and spend an hour working up an intense sweat in a step class (or spin class or zumba or {insert your fav cardio workout here}) and then, with a great workout under your belt, head to the office to sit for the rest of the day…

— OR —

  • Do no formal exercise at all, but get up frequently from your desk/sofa/seat to walk outside and grab the mail, do a few yoga poses during your lunch hour, walk the stairs in the parking garage, walking your dog for a few minutes when you get home, dance in your kitchen as you bop around making dinner, then do a few stretches before bed?


Turns out that the second option is the one that lowers your mortality.


The second one matters most.




This is important to understand.

It goes against our societal *training.*

It goes against the messages you hear to “work out 3 times a week and feel guilty if you don’t.

It goes against the structure of our school system, which trains children to sit at a desk for hours and hours each day and then run hard during PE class for an hour.

It goes against the message of “work hard, play hard…” putting hours in front of the computer (even doing overtime at work) and then sweating your butt off in a co-ed soccer league on the weekends.


This is NOT healthiest in the long run.

It’s awesome if you love working out hard and playing sports. Being active is always going to be awesome.


But it’s NOT awesome to sit for more than a few hours at a time.



We are simply not meant to sit in one place for hours.

Sitting for more than 6 hours of your waking day is more predictive of poor outcome in serious disease than any amount of exercise that you can do.


Today’s review of the medical literature should do one thing for you:

decrease your health anxiety.


Decrease your stress.

Decrease how hard you are on yourself when you don’t reach your exercise goals.

Decrease your self recrimination if you don’t exercise at all.


This article, published on February 27 in Diabetologia, backs up my intuitive understanding of what it means to be healthy.


Researchers looked at whether sedentary time, breaks in sedentary time, and/or total physical activity was associated with cardiometabolic risk factors in 878 participants.

The results showed length of time spent sedentary actually had the biggest impact on blood glucose levels.


Revealing that time spent in sedentary behavior (sitting or lying down) actually impacts your diabetes risk more than moderate to vigorous physical activity does.

The bottom line?


Time spent sedentary may be the biggest risk factor of cardiometabolic health we know of.


So folks who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular events or metabolic syndrome should have a goal of being up and about more throughout the day… instead of sitting all day long in a chair and then exercising one time that day.


See the shift?

Folks who knock out an exercise routine and then spend time sedentary in between trips to the gym are at higher risk for cardiometabolic disease then folks who are simply more active throughout the day.


Simply having fun in your body and moving it in a way that brings you joy is MORE IMPORTANT then any exercise program out there!


That makes things like walking… gardening… washing dishes… taking the stairs… stretching to start and end the day… and other activities that you may not *count* as important as exercise… actually more important than exercise!



So it’s not about the exercise plan.


It’s not about pushing your body to the limit and being perfect with an exercise routine each week.

In fact, it’s better to just get up and stretch throughout the day, take a walk at lunch, take the steps instead of the elevator, throw the frisbee with your kids after dinner and do a few yoga poses before bedtime then it is to hit the gym hard for an hour that day and then feel “off the hook” and sit sedentary for the rest of the day.


  • Health is about moving your body.

  • Health is about flow.

  • Health is about feeling the joy of using your body to complete the activities you’d like to do each day.

  • Health is about zoning out less (in front of the TV, the computer, the gaming system) and about appreciating the skin you are in MORE.


This study shows that it’s not about being super thin and getting super fit… it’s about gratitude for the body we have, making peace with the natural set point our body enjoys, and using our body as a tool for enjoying life.

Back to back with the important article recently published in JAMA (which proves that being overweight is actually healthy for you — I blog about that here) and the study I’m going to talk about next week that shows getting up and walking is more effective at recovering from cancer then any chemotheraputic agent available today… we need to shift away from strict rules about diet and exercise to enjoying the freedom of moving our bodies and the pleasure of eating joyfully.


So why don’t haven’t you heard about this study yet?

Because this study goes against the corporate world, which would have you sit at your computer working around the clock.

And it goes against the factory model, which would have you performing the same task over and over again, uninterrupted, without breaks, all shift long.

And it goes against the school system, which would have your child remain quietly seated from roughly 8 AM to 3 PM on a daily basis.

And truly… it goes against the design of our body.

It goes against our natural birthright of health.


This model of health — to sit for 90% of your day and then push yourself to get in that cardio for 10% of the day — is not supportive of your heart health.

It is not supportive of your metabolism.

It is not supportive of your weight goals or your longevity.


And as I’ll show you next Monday, it is not supportive of your cancer recover either.


That’s right… the same thing that was found for diabetes and cardiometabolic health was found for risk reduction in cancer patients.


So today, I don’t you to worry about exercising.

stretching to release tensionToday, I hope you’ll move your body because it feels good to stretch,

because it increases your energy level to walk around and get fresh air,

and because it helps you sleep better at night to have gotten a bit of sunshine during the day.


Enjoy living in your body, my friend.

Treat it right. All you’ve got to do is stand up and walk around a bit every hour or two. If you do that, you’ve done more to protect your long term health then you could ever do trying to reverse 6 hours of sitting by hitting the gym.

Our bodies don’t work like that… and now that you know it… you don’t have work like that either.


Will Bally’s or Curves for Women or Nike like this news? Maybe not.

But if you know loved ones who need this information to release exercise struggles and make a *real* difference to their long-term health… share this post with them.

And I’ll see you here next week.


xoxo, Laura

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