Don't Stop Your Body, Move It!
What happens when we don't move enough?
One of the principles governing our health is that “that which is not used, atrophies”. Meaning: if we don't move, our organs will age prematurely.
What is sedentary behaviour?
Sedentary behaviour is any waking activity characterized by a very low energy expenditure (≤1.5 metabolic equivalents; METs), while in a sitting, reclining or lying posture (1).
How much time do you spend in sedentary behaviour?
Probably you spend more than half of your daily waking hours in sedentary behaviours such as watching television, while moving from place to place by car or bus, at work or school. And it is important to know that you may be exercising daily, but you may still be highly sedentary, because they are different things. Moreover, it has been observed that cancer survivors are more likely to be sedentary than those with no history of cancer (2).
What effects does a lifestyle with a high level of sedentary behaviour have on your health?
A higher amount of sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of all-cause cardiovascular diseases and cancer mortality, as well as cardiovascular diseases, several types of cancer (e.g ovarian, endometrial, colon, breast, prostate, and rectal cancers), and type 2 diabetes incidence (3-4). A sedentary lifestyle leads to a series of changes in the body that result in poor metabolic health. This can become a vicious circle. Thus, when a person does not move, and this state is maintained over time, systemic degeneration processes are accelerated, cardiovascular capacity and strength worsen, which makes it increasingly difficult to move. By contrast, those cancer survivors that sat less (<3h/day), have better mental and physical health (5).
For all these reasons, you should reduce your sedentary behaviours. Indeed, several studies have indicated that reallocating sedentary time to moderate-vigorous physical activity or light physical activity is associated with better fatigue and several aspects of quality of life in kidney (6), colorectal (7) and breast cancer (8) survivors.
Strategies to avoid sedentarism:
- Reduce the use of motorised transport when traveling. Cycle or walk whenever possible.
- If you are "forced" to spend a lot of time sitting down because of your job or studies, break in sedentary time regularly. Experts recommend active breaks of 10 minutes for every hour of sitting or reclining.
- Switch from lifts or escalators to traditional stairs.
- If you use public transport, get off 1 or 2 stops before your destination and walk the rest.
Conclusion: Don’t stop your body – move it!
Increasing movement and decreasing sedentary behaviour would help cancer survivors to have a better quality of life.
1. Tremblay, M.S., Aubert, S., Barnes, J.D. et al. Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN) – Terminology Consensus Project process and outcome. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 14, 75 (2017).
2. Cortés-Ibáñez FO, Jaramillo-Calle DA, Vinke PC, Byambasukh O, Corpeleijn E, Sijtsma A, Eulenburg C, Vonk JM, de Bock GH. Comparison of health behaviours between cancer survivors and the general population: a cross-sectional analysis of the Lifelines cohort. J Cancer Surviv. 2020 Jun;14(3):377-385.
3. Dempsey PC, Biddle SJH, Buman MP, Chastin S, Ekelund U, Friedenreich CM, Katzmarzyk PT, Leitzmann MF, Stamatakis E, van der Ploeg HP, Willumsen J, Bull F. New global guidelines on sedentary behaviour and health for adults: broadening the behavioural targets. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020 Nov 26;17(1):151.
4. Hermelink R, Leitzmann MF, Markozannes G, Tsilidis K, Pukrop T, Berger F, Baurecht H, Jochem C. Sedentary behavior and cancer-an umbrella review and meta-analysis. Eur J Epidemiol. 2022 May;37(5):447-460.
5. Rees-Punia E, Patel AV, Nocera JR, Chantaprasopsuk S, Demark-Wahnefried W, Leach CR, Smith TG, Cella D, Gapstur SM. Self-reported physical activity, sitting time, and mental and physical health among older cancer survivors compared with adults without a history of cancer. Cancer. 2020 Jan 1;127(1):115-123.
6. Tabaczynski A, Courneya KS, Trinh L. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity and sleep: associations with quality of life in kidney cancer survivors. Cancer Causes Control. 2020 Jul;31(7):669-681.
7. Van Roekel EH, Bours MJ, Breedveld-Peters JJ, Willems PJ, Meijer K, Kant I, van den Brandt PA, Beets GL, Sanduleanu S, Weijenberg MP. Modeling how substitution of sedentary behavior with standing or physical activity is associated with health-related quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Cancer Causes Control. 2016 Apr;27(4):513-25.
8. Welch WA, Ehlers D, Gavin KL, Aguinaga S, Cottrell A, Nielsen A, Solk P, McAuley E, Phillips SM. Effects of reallocating sedentary time with physical activity on quality of life indicators in breast cancer survivors. Psychooncology. 2019 Jul;28(7):1430-1437.