Hour’s activity offsets sedentary day

Office workers are advised to take regular breaks from their desks.

Office workers are advised to take regular breaks from their desks

An hour’s “brisk exercise” each day offsets the risks of early death linked to a desk-bound working life, scientists suggest.
The analysis of data from more than a million people is part of a study of physical activity published in the Lancet to coincide with the Olympics.
Watching TV was found to be worse than sitting at a desk, probably because of associated habits like snacking.

Current NHS guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Being inactive is known to increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
It has been linked to 5.3 million deaths globally a year – compared with 5.1 million linked to smoking.
A cheat’s guide to staying active
The Lancet research says the global cost, for healthcare and lost productivity, is estimated at £57 billion per year.
To look at the the impact of activity and inactivity, researchers went back to the authors of 13 existing papers and asked all of them to reanalyse their data.
People were classed depending on how active they were – from the least active who did less than five minutes a day, up to 60-75 minutes a day for the most active.
Researchers then looked at how many people died during the follow-up period – between two and 14 years.

Those who sat for eight hours a day, but were physically active, had a much lower risk of premature death compared with people who sat for fewer hours a day, but were not active.

Sitting for a long time as well as being inactive carried the greatest risk.
Prof Ulf Ekelund, of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and the University of Cambridge, led the study.
He said: “For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time. For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work.
“An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk.”
But he admitted: “One hour’s moderate activity is substantially higher than current recommendations.”


How was your weekend running?

With the summer in full swing now is the time to take advantage of the weather.

With the summer in full swing now is the time to take advantage of the weather.

After a few weeks of last-minute-marathoning, recovering, and holidaying in Japan, it’s time to restart.
I’ve been doing little but easy running – and not all that much of that. So on Saturday it was time for my first track session in a few weeks. I’d forgotten how quickly you get out of the habit – it wasn’t so much the reps (1500ms, ugh) as the fact that for the entire afternoon I felt like each limb suddenly weighed four stone more.
Obviously my brain was suffering from some kind of oxygen deficit too as I nevertheless decided this was the ideal time to embark on massive spring clean of the house. Fool.
But though it is still just spring, I’ve got an autumn marathon target in mind and that’s not (alas) going to run itself, so it’s time for me to get back into proper training. And – horror! – going easy on the cake for a bit too.
Anyone who is in our Strava group (please join if you aren’t) can look forward to me whimpering virtually after Tuesday track sessions and Thursday tempo runs – and all the rest. Now if that doesn’t tempt you to join ..
Meanwhile, the race season is starting to get to the shorter stuff for distance runners – 5km, 10km – and the mile season beckons. The nice thing about all those distances is that you can, if finances and time allow, string together quite a few of them over a summer.
Recovery is quick, so if it doesn’t go quite right, you can enter another. I’ll be doing the Vitality 10km (formerly known as the Bupa 10km) so do let me know if anyone else is, and fancies a meet up.
Finally, anyone in London this coming Saturday should most definitely head to Parliament Hill for the Night of the 10km PBs. This brilliant, free and fun event is now not only a place to drink beer while watching the best of British runners, but the official Olympic Team GB trials. Come and cheer in an outside lane – did I mention it’s free?
So over to you. How was your weekend running? Racing, race planning or training, or just enjoying some Vitamin D? Comments, suggestions, inspiration below the line as always, please.

Is a stand up desk really healthier?

Standing up at your desk reduces sitting, but not by the amount experts recommend.

Standing up at your desk reduces sitting, but not by the amount experts recommend.

Our sedentary lifestyles are increasingly being blamed for a range of problems. Stand-up and treadmill desks might seem to be the answer, but is it worth shelling out for one?
Sitting is the new smoking – blamed for increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes and obesity. Health guidelines suggest we should spend 150 minutes a week in moderate exercise, but many of us sit down for more than half the working day – email means we don’t even have to get up to talk to anyone.
So it is not surprising that there is a gap in the market.
Stand-up, sit-stand and treadmill desks are all the rage. Google and Microsoft have allegedly bought stacks of treadmill desks – modified treadmill bases attached to work surfaces. The manufacturer of TrekDesk says that a treadmill-desk set at a walking speed of 1.5km an hour will burn 2.6 calories a minute. Such energy expenditure does not come cheap: desks cost upwards of £1,000. But do they make people more active and healthier, or are they this year’s corporate gimmick?

Is sitting down bad for my health?

The research so far is inconclusive. The benefits may be more myth than reality. A systematic review by Cochrane researchers looked at 26 studies with 2,174 people. They found that sit-stand desks reduced sitting by between 30 minutes and two hours a day. While this sounds impressive, the researchers say the studies mostly did not deliver the up-to-four-hours of standing that experts recommend.
Standing desks were also not found to have much benefit in weight reduction – if an average-sized man and woman spent half of their eight-hour working day standing, they would spend an additional 20 kilocalories and 12 kilocalories each.
This, point out the researchers, is not enough to prevent obesity or type 2 diabetes. Prolonged standing may also be difficult for people with low back pain.
Treadmill work stations, though, were found to reduce sitting by nearly half an hour in the Cochrane review and another systematic review found that they particularly benefited obese people, improving their levels of good cholesterol and reducing their waist circumferences.
So much for the physical effects, but what about productivity and brainpower?
Exercise is traditionally thought to improve the ability to think – but generally only after you have stopped doing it. A study in Plos One of 76 people randomly assigned to a treadmill (moving at 1.5mph) or a sitting desk found that the sedentary group did better at recalling lists of words and working out mental maths problems. It was easier to concentrate and remember from a sitting position. Unsurprisingly, it was also easier to type faster without making mistakes.
So, while the benefits of standing desks may be overstated, the risks of sitting are not. You can take walking breaks throughout the day and use the stairs, whatever desk you have.

13 ways to sneak in more cardio

Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness.

Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness.

Beyond triggering that runner’s high, it’s associated with a higher quality of life, improved health, and a better mood. But missing a few gym sessions doesn’t mean staying active has to fall by the wayside.
Sneaking cardio into daily life can save time and improve fitness, sometimes on par with the benefits of a scheduled sweat session. And more time getting moving in our daily lives means less time sitting, which can lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and early death. While intense exercise is good for us, it doesn’t completely erase the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, so making an effort to get moving throughout the day can have some serious long-term benefits.

So how much cardio is enough, and what are some ways to fit it in?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, plus two days per week of strength training.
Whether it’s 30 continuous minutes of activity or three 10-minute sessions, Cheltenham Personal Trainers have got 13 simple ways to get more active for even the busiest person, whether at home, work, or play. Just keep in mind calories burned varies depending on age, build, gender, and weight.
1. Be a stair master: But consider taking them one at a time, not two.Researchers found that while the rate of caloric expenditure is higher when taking two at a time, the burn over an entire flight is more when taking one at a time. In one study, participants climbed a 15-meter stairway five times a day with an average of 302 calories burned per week using one step and 266 calories per week using the double step.
2. Walk and talk: Hold walking meetings with co-workers. While moderate walking uses almost two-and-a-half times the energy of sitting in a meeting, mobile meetings can also strengthen work relationships, improve health, and boost creativity.
3. Please stand up: Think of your ring tone as an alarm to get up out of the chair. Throw in a few bodyweight exercises before sitting back down (and check out this list for some great ideas).
4. Hydrate often: Getting lots of H2O means more trips to the bathroom (drinking water might also help ramp up metabolism). Pick a bathroom on a different floor, and visit it often.
5. No more lazy layovers: Stuck in the airport because of a delayed flight? Don’t just sit there. Do terminal laps — but skip the moving sidewalks!
6. Ditch the drive: Bike or walk to work instead. In addition to adding stress, commuting via public transportation or car can rack up sitting time and lead to weight gain. Just make sure to follow some basic safety precautions and rules of the road!
7. Clean machine: Chores — they have to get done, so why not make them into a workout? Vacuuming can burn about 75 calories per half-hour, while washing the car uses more than double that.
8. Made in the shade: While running errands, park in the shadiest spot, not the closest, to log more steps and keep the car cool.
9. Take a lap (or three!): Browsing the perimeter of a grocery store can do more than just promote healthy food choices. Take a couple of laps to compare prices and rack up some steps! Pushing a cart around the grocery store uses 105 to 155 calories in a half-hour. Bonus points for lugging home the groceries.
10. Hit the dance floor: Shake it to your favorite beat. Just 30 minutes — or about seven or eight songs — of fast dancing can use up 180 to 266 calories.
11. Take an active date: Challenge your date to a game of tennis. In addition to burning 210 to 311 calories in 30 minutes, tennis may improve bone health, reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, and lower body fat. Looking for more options to give dates a fitness twist? We’ve got plenty of ideas for any season.
12. “Shopping is my cardio”: Words of wisdom from Carrie Bradshaw. Except that a two-hour shopping expedition uses almost 300 calories, or 75 per half-hour. Enough said.
13. Game night: So-called “exergames” — such as on the Kinect or Wii Fit Plus— have been shown to increase energy expenditure up to three times more than just sitting. But while these games are better than parking on the couch, energy burn can vary quite a bit depending on the game.
Exercise doesn’t have to be done at the gym, on a track, or even in workout clothes. Little bits of exercise throughout the day can add up — just get creative! Pair some of these sneaky cardio boosters with unexpected strength training to vary the routine and meet the weekly recommendations for exercise.

Commuters who shun car travel keep slimmer, study concludes

People who cycle, walk or catch the train or bus to work keep more weight off than commuters who travel by car, a large UK study has found.

People who cycle, walk or catch the train or bus to work keep more weight off than commuters who travel by car, a large UK study has found.


The results come from 150,000 UK adults aged 40 or older who agreed to be measured and weighed and fill in a survey about their typical journey to and from work.

Cycling came out as the best activity for staying trim, followed by walking. But even those who used public transport were leaner than car users.

The authors of the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology study say the findings show even a little physical activity is better than nothing at all.
They reached their conclusions by comparing the bodyweights and lifestyles of the 72,999 men and 83,667 women in their study.
Even when they factored in differences such as leisure-time, exercise, diet and occupation, the trend between commute method and bodyweight remained.
And for both cycling and walking, greater travelling distances were associated with greater reductions in percentage body fat.
By their calculations, an “average” height man would weigh around 5kg (11lbs) less if he were to cycle rather than drive to work each day. Likewise, the average height woman would weigh 4.4kg (9.7lbs) less.
In the study, 64% of men and 61% of women commuted by car, while 4% of men and 2% of women reported cycling or doing a mix of cycling and walking.
In England and Wales, 23.7 million people regularly commute to work and around two-thirds do so by car, according to census data.
Study author Dr Ellen Flint, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “We know that physical activity can help prevent obesity – absolutely we do – and yet, two thirds of the UK population don’t achieve weekly recommended levels of physical activity.
“This study shows basically that people who do manage to build some level of physical exertion into their commute, even if it’s just walking to a bus stop or cycling a short distance, they tend to be less heavy and have less body fat than people who drive all the way to work.”
She said it was important that policy makers and town planners make it easy for people to walk and cycle to work.
“It’s a win, win really for public health and the environment,” she said.
“Physical activity can play a role in maintaining a healthy weight, and helps to prevent or manage over 20 long-term conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
“Walking and cycling are some of the easiest ways for people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives and it is never too late to start.”

Gym bunnies are wasting their time, study suggests

Hitting the gym in the hope of burning up calories to lose weight can backfire as the body adapts to higher activity levels, according to new research.

Hitting the gym in the hope of burning up calories to lose weight can backfire as the body adapts to higher activity levels, according to new research

Gym bunnies who spend hours working out in an attempt to shed unwanted flab are wasting their time, research suggests.

The body adapts to higher activity levels – changing metabolism so that fewer calories are burned, the US study indicates.

Researchers measured the daily energy expenditure and activity levels of more than 300 men and women.

Those with moderately active levels such as a daily walk to work, and a trip to the gym twice a week were found to burn about 200 calories more per day than those living couch potato lifestyles.

But after a certain threshold ñ described by scientists as a ìsweet spotî ñ the extra time working up a sweat made no difference to the amount of calories burned.

Experts said it might explain by those who embark on gym routines in a bid to weight loss often see weight loss hit a plateau after a few months.

Lead scientist Dr Herman Pontzer, from the City University of New York, said the findings showed that exercise alone was not enough to prevent or reverse weight gain.

He said he decided to explore the link between activity and energy expenditure after working among a community of traditional hunter-gatherers in northern Tanzania.

He said: “The Hadza are incredibly active, walking long distances each day and doing a lot of hard physical work as part of their everyday life.

“Despite these high activity levels, we found that they had similar daily energy expenditures to people living more sedentary, modernised lifestyles in the United States and Europe. That was a real surprise.”

The study measured the activity and food consumption of more than 300 men and women over a week.

Those with moderate activity levels were found to expend the most calories.

Dr Pontzer said such lifestyles might involve walking or cycling to work, taking the stairs rather than the lift, and a couple of bursts of exercise, such as gym trips, during a week.

But doing more than that made no difference.

“The most physically active people expended the same amount of calories each day as people who were only moderately active,” said Dr Pontzer.

The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, reinforce the message that you cannot duck the importance of diet when trying to lose weight, scientists said.

However, they stressed that exercise had a host of benefits for maintaining health.

Dr Pontzer said: “There is tons of evidence that exercise is important for keeping our bodies and minds healthy, and this work does nothing to change that message.

“What our work adds is that we also need to focus on diet, particularly when it comes to managing our weight and preventing or reversing unhealthy weight gain.”

Cycling to work without a helmet? Please think again

What are the risks of cycling to work on the UK’s roads?

What are the risks of cycling to work on the UK's roads?

I had an interview recently with a lawyer in London who began by apologising for being out of breath. ‘My wife banned me from riding my bike after three accidents in central London in the space of 12 months, ‘he explained. ‘I’ve gotten out of shape.’

I mentioned that I had just walked from Hackney in east London to the City and was surprised at the number of cyclists in the latest reflective and polypropylene cycling gear who were nonetheless weaving in and out of traffic without a helmet. My lawyer friend laughed knowingly. ‘I keep a photo on my phone of my cracked helmet to show people what their head might look like when they cycle without one,’ he said.

With more people cycling to work in cities such as London, New York, and San Francisco, the conversation often turns to the dangers of riding in heavy city traffic. Are taxis stopping without warning the greatest menace or perhaps delivery vans turning suddenly?

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has often sung the praises of cycling to work, and the rental bicycles scattered through the city are even nicknamed ‘Boris bikes’ because of his support for them. But even though Mr Johnson has had a few close calls while cycling, he has refrained from making bicycle helmets mandatory.

I understand that riding in hot weather with a helmet can be uncomfortable, but I think the case for helmets, mandatory or not, is hard to dispute. Australia, New Zealand and parts of Canada have adopted compulsory helmet laws and it is clear that cycling deaths declined in the years after those laws were adopted.

Some have pointed out that the number of heart attacks rose in Australia because some cyclists gave up riding to work rather than wear a helmet, but is that really relevant?

The grim fact is that London had already reached eight cycling deaths this year and New York recorded a doubling of fatalities from nine to 18 in 2014. It is true that the number of cyclists is increasing in both cities, which is a good thing, but that does not diminish the avoidable dangers. The victims included a prominent Manhattan surgeon and a neuroscientist, who were not wearing helmets.

Michael Carter, a paediatric neurosurgeon in Bristol, told me recently that he often sees cases of head injuries from bicycle accidents in his hospitalís emergency room that could have been avoided if the cyclists had worn helmets. ‘It makes no sense whatsoever to ride without a helmet,’ said Dr Carter, who has stopped cycling in the city because of the recent deaths of two friends.

The Cochrane Library, widely accepted as the gold standard for medical research worldwide, looked at bicycle accidents and did a statistical comparison of different studies to see if there were patterns in helmet use.

The review said that three quarters of all fatalities on bicycles result from head injuries.

It found that ‘wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head or brain injury by approximately two-thirds or more, regardless of whether the crash involved a motor vehicle.’

One solution to the problem of bicycle safety is the creation of dedicated bike lanes, which has happened in Berlin, New York and other cities and should be tried elsewhere. But they do not eliminate the danger entirely and the reasonable response is to wear a helmet, even for short rides.



How to create healthy habits and actually keep them going

So how do you break old routines and create healthy habits?

So how do you break old routines and create healthy habits?

If you do the research, you’ll find that, unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight. There are several different studies on the time it actually takes for new habits to become automatic – many show that it takes at least 21 days to start a new habit, several say 66 days, and some studies even claim that it can take as many as 254 days.

The one thing these studies all have in common is that it takes time.

So that lofty goal to run four miles every morning, hit up the gym five times a week, and have a beach body in a month when you’ve spent years living a sedentary lifestyle might not be so practical.

Fortunately, there are a few simple tips to help you set and actually keep your new goals.

Keep Your Goals Small

Often times we take on more than we can handle when it comes to setting new goals. We want to complete a full marathon, because bigger goals sound good, right? And we do really great at hitting up the gym everyday that first week, or meditating for a half hour before bed for the first couple of days. But schedules can be unpredictable and hectic – one missed day at the gym can lead to two, which suddenly feels like failure. Our motivation starts to slide, and all too soon we find our goals on a slippery slope, falling back into old patterns.

By starting off small, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed because you are not expecting high-level performance from yourself. Rather, you are trying to become the type of person who can stick to this easy, new habit. Once the behavior becomes consistent, then you can build up the performance level.

Maybe you do have a goal to get in shape. Great! But instead of attempting to go from couch to kickin’ it right off the bat, start off simple. Shoot for running only a quarter mile a day (instead of four) the first week. As time progresses, slowly bump up the distance. Or if your goal is to read a book for an hour every evening, begin by reading only five minutes for the first week. Five minutes is totally doable and you’ll find it much easier to commit.

From there you can continue to increase your exercise time or increase your reading time (or whatever your goal may be) little by little as you adjust to your new habit.

This can be true of all new goals. Want to get out of debt? Start by saving an extra $15 a week. Ready to quit drinking those five cans of Dr. Pepper every day? Replace one can of soda with a bottle of water each day. Trying to stop snacking on junk food throughout the day? Carry along a baggie of carrots and raisins to munch on for your typical afternoon snack.

As your new, smaller habits begin to form, you’ll find them becoming a permanent part of your routine and a permanent part of your life.

Fit legs equals fit brain, study suggests

Older women who have strong legs are likely to fare better when it comes to ageing of the brain, a decade-long study of more than 300 twins suggests.

Older women who have strong legs are likely to fare better when it comes to ageing of the brain, a decade-long study of more than 300 twins suggests.

The King’s College London team says leg power is a useful marker of whether someone is getting enough exercise to help keep their mind in good shape.

Exercise releases chemicals in the body that may boost elderly brains, say the scientists, in the journal Gerontology.

But they say more research is needed to prove their hunch.

It is difficult to untangle leg strength from other lifestyle factors that may have an impact on brain health and the study did not look specifically at dementia, experts say.

The researchers tracked the health of more than 150 pairs of twin sisters aged between 43 and 73 at the start of the study.

Leg power was measured (at the start of the study) using a modified piece of gym equipment that measured both speed and power of leg extension, while brain power was measured (at both the start and the end of the study) using computerised tasks that tested memory and mental processing skills.

Generally, the twin who had more leg power at the start of the study sustained their cognition better and had fewer brain changes associated with ageing measured after 10 years. And the finding remained when other known lifestyle and health risk factors for dementia were included.

Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves said: “When it came to cognitive ageing, leg strength was the strongest factor that had an impact in our study.

“Other factors such as heart health were also important, but the link with leg strength remained even after we accounted for these. We think leg strength is a marker of the kind of physical activity that is good for your brain.”

Alzheimer’s Society director of research Dr Doug Brown said the findings added to the growing evidence that physical activity could help look after the brain as well as the body.

“However, we still don’t fully understand how this relationship works and how we can maximise the benefit,” he said.

“And we have yet to see if the improvements in memory tests actually translate into a reduced risk of dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK director of research Dr Simon Ridley said: “We know that keeping active generally can help reduce dementia risk, and it’s important to take into account strength training as well as aerobic exercise.”

Beginner’s Guide to Gym Equipment

A new year, comes new resolutions and, as I’m sure you’re aware, many people have their sights set on exercise and fitness.

A new year, comes new resolutions and, as Iím sure youíre aware, many people have their sights set on exercise and fitness.

Ever heard of atychiphobia? It’s new to me too, and though it’s not something I’m diagnosed with, I may have a minor case of it. Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. The kind of fear that keeps me and so many people from trying something outside our comfort zone.

Gyms experience a spike in memberships and attendance in January (12% of members join this month), with many people showing up for their first time. It can be an empowering, albeit intimidating, experience for newcomers. You walk in and immediately start to judge everyone elseís physique as well as your own.

The last thing I want to see happen is for you to give up before you really get started because it all just seems too hard or unfamiliar, so I put together this blog post to get you up to snuff on some gym basics, particularly with gym equipment.

Free weights like dumbbells, plates, bars, and kettlebells only make up a small portion of gym equipment available to you. There is a never-ending variety of machines to choose from, which is usually a good place to start for beginners. Most simply put, machines refer to equipment that utilize cables, pulleys, pins, or weight stacks to provide resistance (see example on the left). Weight can be adjusted quickly and it’s easier to have good form since the machine directs your movements. Plus they usually provide detailed instructions on the machine itself, showing you the proper exercises to use it for.

Anytime I try out an unfamiliar exercise, I like to see how it should be done. YouTube is a great resource because you can see the exercise performed in real time (way better than trying to imagine it while reading a mile-long description). So if you’re not sure of the exact way to perform a curl or what a deadlift looks like, watch a video!


In addition to bringing the right equipment, you should also be conscious of some basic gym etiquette. Consider these general rules:

Don’t play around on your phone between sets. People take too long when they have to take breaks to browse their phone for the next song or reply to texts. Move out of the way if you need to use your phone.
Donít monopolize all the gym equipment you want to use. Really, you only need one machine at a time.
Maintain good hygiene and clean your clothes please! Heat, sweat, and fabric. Iíll let you do the math.
‘Rack your weights.’ A common gym phrase. In other words, put your stuff back when youíre done. This isn’t preschool.
Wipe off your equipment when youíre finished using it.

Gym Shopping

In addition to knowing what to bring, many people are concerned about cost, but your monthly membership costs can be just about as high or as low as you want.

As you would expect with anything, the more you pay the more benefits you can expect. Gyms and health clubs can vary greatly in their membership plans, amenities and equipment, so itís smart to do some comparison shopping.

I am by no means the know-it-all here, so I want to hear from the rest of you no matter if youíre a novice or experienced professional. What’s your preference on gym equipment? Do you prefer free weights or machines? Please comment below.