Exercise May Help Counter Health Risks of Sedentary Lifestyle

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THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Being a couch potato may have fewer long-term health consequences if you trade some of your couch time for gym time, suggests a new study.

The research found that people who were more fit were able to counter some of the ill health effects of a sedentary lifestyle, such as high blood pressure. And, not surprisingly, folks who were fitter also had less body fat, according to the researchers from the American Cancer Society, the Cooper Institute and the University of Texas School of Public Health.

For the study, more than 1,300 adult men from a Texas clinic kept track of the amount of time they spent watching TV and sitting in a car. At regular clinic visits between 1981 and 2012, the men used a treadmill to test their fitness levels.

Being inactive for extended periods of time can result in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, more body fat, more fat in the blood and less HDL cholesterol -- the "good" type of cholesterol, according to the researchers, led by Kerem Shuval of the American Cancer Society.

When the researchers controlled the data for fitness, they found extended periods of inactivity only increased the amount of fat in the blood and lowered good cholesterol. Additionally, the more fit a participant was, the lower his risk for obesity and other metabolism-related diseases.

Results of the study were released online July 14 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Because the researchers' ability to measure how much time spent being inactive relied on the participants reporting accurately on themselves, the study has limitations.

The researchers said the relationship between reduced inactivity and risk for metabolism-related diseases needs further exploration, but the relationship between a person's fitness and risk for such diseases is clear. The researchers believe there is "a need to encourage achieving higher levels of fitness" to help keep type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other weight-related conditions away, they noted in an American Cancer Society news release.

More information

Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine for more on exercise.