Changes in workforce dynamics have created a much more sedentary society. Park City Attorney Greg Bishop explains that in 1960, about half of the U.S. workforce had physically inactive jobs. Today, that percentage has climbed to over 80%. Not only are jobs more sedentary than in the past, but people are spending more time each week at work. According to a 2014 Gallop Poll, salaried employees work an average of 49 hours per week, while hourly employees average 44 hours per week. Equally concerning is a recent study of employees in sedentary occupations. The study concluded that these employees spent over 9 hours a day in sedentary behavior while at work (including over 5.5 hours of sitting), and an additional 2 hours outside of work.
The Growing Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Given that people generally spend well over two-thirds of their adult lives in the workforce, the growing sedentary nature of most types of jobs poses some very real health risks. Recently, researchers concluded that there is strong evidence that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of many major health conditions. Among other things, they concluded that about 6% of all coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 9% of premature deaths (from all causes), 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer are linked to physical inactivity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) likewise determined that there is a strong relationship between the amount of time spent in sedentary behavior and the risk of mortality from all causes.
Increasing Physical Activity
To combat the growing problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, HHS updated its Physical Activities Guidelines in November 2018. Both the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association have adopted HHS’s recommendations. The Guidelines indicate that adults (18 years and older) gain substantial health benefits by engaging in at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week (preferably spread out over the week). HHS explains that additional health benefits can be gained by increasing the amount of aerobic exercise to 5 hours a week, with even more health benefits added for additional weekly aerobic exercise. HHS clarified that its time-based recommendations could be cut in half by increasing the level of intensity from moderate intensity (such as brisk walking) to vigorous intensity (such as jogging or running).
In addition to aerobic exercise, HHS recommends conducting muscle-strengthening activities at least twice each week. These muscle-strengthening activities should be of moderate or more intensity and should include all of the major muscle groups. HHS explained that muscle-strengthening activities provide supplementary health benefits above and beyond those obtained by aerobic exercise alone. As for adults 65 and older, HHS also recommends adding balance training to their weekly aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
According to HHS, only 26% of men and 19% of women (ages 18 to 64) currently meet its Guidelines for weekly aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. The proportion of older adults (65 and older) who met the Guidelines was also very low (about 27% based on 2011-2012 data). The Journal of the American Medical Association reached a similar conclusion, noting that approximately 80% of American adults and adolescents are not sufficiently active.
Benefits of a More Active Lifestyle
The HHS guidelines – originally issued in 2008 – were updated in 2018. During the intervening ten years, the evidence supporting the many benefits associated with increasing levels of physical activity grew considerably. Among other things, those benefits include:
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased executive function (the ability to organize daily activities and plan for the future)
- Reduced depressive symptoms and the risk of clinical depression
- Decreased acute and chronic levels of anxiety
- Improved physical function
- Increased cognition (including memory, processing speed, attention, and academic performance)
In addition to these benefits, the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle decrease considerably. For example, strong evidence demonstrates a significant decrease in the risks associated with:
- Excessive weight gain
- Cancers of the breast, colon, bladder, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung and stomach
- Type 2 diabetes
- Falls and fall-related injuries (for older adults)
It’s Never Too Late to Start
Mr. Greg Bishop suggests that retirement is the perfect opportunity to reverse the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle that have increased because of the changes in workforce dynamics. He explains that it is never too late to adopt a more active lifestyle. Regardless of how long people have been sedentary, health risks begin to decrease as soon as people replace their sedentary behavior with light-intensity physical activities. Even more health benefits are gained as people move from light-intensity activities to moderate-intensity activities.
About Greg Bishop, Attorney
Greg Bishop is a business-oriented corporate attorney who always strives for improvement. He makes it a practice to only hire people who are smarter than him so that his team can raise the bar in helping the company be successful. He is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others reach their full potential.
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