There is now widespread acknowledgement that as a population we are overly sedentary and that to avoid preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease we need to be more active. Government campaigns are being sponsored to improve awareness of the importance of activity, and a good diet. Currently in the UK 24.9% of the population are classified as obese and this figure has trebled in the last 30 years.

Consequently there is a massive marketing campaign to get us as a population up and moving more. The gym industry is having a field day in promoting health and fitness lifestyles that are achieved by attending their gyms, and of course increasing their profits. But is this the only way?

Firstly it has to be said there’s more to activity than going to a gym. It could be argued that going into the garden and digging the vegetable patch, or walking the dog is a far more productive and satisfying way of spending a Sunday afternoon rather than going to the gym. More scientifically James Levine’s work from the United States has calculated that for optimum health two hours and 15 minutes of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) needs to be undertaken every day, and this is far more effective than going to the gym for an hour three times a week at guarding against heart disease. NEAT is defined as walking at 1.1 mile an hour, and when you consider that a military march is calculated at 4 miles an hour (Naismith’s rule), it can be seen that 1.1 mile an hour is barely ambling. It can therefore be recommended that going to the gym for an hour two or three times a week is not sufficient to reduce the risk of preventable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes without abandoning sedentary lifestyles that that on average involves sitting for up to 10 hours a day.

So yes go to the gym and enjoy it, but more importantly consider how you can reduce the amount of sitting that you subject your body to in a day.

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  2. Levine, J 2014 Get Up! Why your chair is killing you and what you can do about it.