Zumba-ing every morning doesn't make up for sitting on your butt the rest of the day
Credit: Getty (2); Inset: Courtesy Harley Pasternak

We’ve all filled out forms at the doctor’s office or insurance questionnaires where they ask you to check a box next to “Sedentary,” “Moderately Active” or “Active.”

I’m going to throw what may seem like a curve ball at many of you. If you dutifully go to the gym five times a week for your favorite high-intensity cardio classes, but are sitting at a desk or in front of the TV for the rest of the day, you are not “Active.”

We all know that people who sit for extended periods of time are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. But what may be news to you is that extended periods of sitting affects even those people who meet exercise requirements and is undermining all your hard work – and could even be harming your overall health.

That’s right. You could be a spinning machine or Zumba-ing every morning before work, but no one should think that makes up for sitting on your butt for the rest of the day.

A study that came out of Northwestern Medicine found that being a dedicated exerciser and gym-goer doesn’t prevent women from sitting too much anyway.

Many of the women who participated in the study met (or even exceeded) 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but were really not active. Only a fraction of their waking hours were spent being active.

“I think some people assume, ‘If I’m getting my 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day, I’m doing what I need to do for my health,’ ” says Lynette L. Craft, first author of the study and an adjunct assistant professor in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Of course, exercise is very important and is associated with many positive health benefits, but negative health consequences are associated with prolonged sitting, and this study shows that just because you’re physically active doesn’t mean you’re sitting less.”

A few years ago I took off six months from seeing clients and I traveled to the 10 healthiest countries in the world, interested in what made these populations thinner, healthier and live longer.

While there were very few dietary factors that overlapped, I did find one common thread that tied all these healthy countries together – they kept moving, constantly, throughout the entire day.

Moreover, none of these populations were “gym cultures.” They were just people who walked places, rode bicycles, took the stairs, did their own laundry and dishes. Simply put, these were active people!

Where to begin if you want to become a more active person? Tweet me @harleypasternak and let me know.