Artice, Physical Activity

Physical Activity and Its Benefits

Stop sitting so much! 
Stop sitting so much! And while you do, think about the following: In general, most of our biological characteristics can be explained by adaptations of the human body to the features of our external and internal environments.1 And humans spent 99.99% of their history in nature.2 Hunting, scavenging, escaping from predators, or building shelters.3 Therefore different kinds of physical activity (PA) played a huge role in our survival. And what do we do now? We sit.4

This very mismatch between our ancient physiology and our modern lifestyle underlies many so-called diseases of civilization. A change in our lifestyle might be an effective strategy to reduce certain health risks.3 And the one characteristic we can certainly adjust, as it was required to survive and live, is regular physical activity3, which can be expressed in many ways.

One single bout of PA:

-        Reduces feelings of anxiety,
-        decreases blood pressure,
-        improves sleep (more important for your health, than you probably think it is),
-        enhances insulin sensitivity (which is a good thing).5

Regular PA:

-        Improves the ability to supply oxygen to the muscles (Cardiorespiratory fitness), increases and maintains muscular strength and has a cardioprotective effect.5
-        Lowers the risk for adverse health outcomes, including hypertension, several types of cancer, depression, dementia, cardiovascular mortality, and many more.5
-        Enhances our immune defense activity and metabolic health and therefore improves our immune system.6
-        Allows the body to accommodate and adjust to physiological needs through profound changes in the endocrine system (our hormone system).7
-        Improves brain function and prevents cognitive decline across the lifespan8 and is associated with better mental and emotional health.9
-       Improves cellular adaptations and gross physiologic changes that enhance your overall physiological performance.10

So, what should I do?

-        Stop sitting so much. Try to refrain from sitting as much as possible. If you must sit, break up the periods of prolonged sitting and go for a brief walk, get some coffee or do some stretches.
-        Do more. For adults, the WHO guidelines recommend a combination of aerobic PA (e.g., running, riding a bike, or brisk walking for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity), combined with muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on ≥2 days/week.11
-        No really, do more. PA is dose dependent, so the effects of PA change as the dose of PA changes.12 Further increases of PA might yield even more health benefits for you.5
-        Exercise snacks add up.  Even very short duration PA (i.e., 1-2 minutes) yields potential benefits, especially if accumulated.5 The total duration of PA is what provides the health benefits.4 So try to move as much as possible even if it is just for a brief moment. Repeat that over and over again and reap the benefits. It's not all or nothing, it’s whatever is possible.

Authors: Joshua Thaller and Devin Bayer (Outdoor Against Cancer)


  1. Rühli, F., van Schaik, K., & Henneberg, M. (2016). Evolutionary Medicine: The Ongoing Evolution of Human Physiology and Metabolism. Physiology (Bethesda, Md.), 31(6), 392–397.
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     and Loren Cordain. “The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization.”
     Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, 2011, 15.
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  7. Hackney, A. C., & Lane, A. R. (2015). Exercise and the Regulation of Endocrine Hormones. Progress in molecular biology and translational science, 135, 293–311.
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  10. McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2010). Exercise physiology: nutrition, energy, and human performance. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  11. World Health Organization. Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Geneva; 2020 25 November 2020. Report No.: ISBN: 9789240015128
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