OK, so this study doesn’t say Ashtanga specifically, but for all intents and purposes, that’s what it can mean.
The study, out this week in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, finds that even people who spend a fixed amount of time each day or week exercising are at greater risk for health problems if, the rest of the time, they are sedentary.
You know: Sitting around. Watching TV. Tied to a desk at work. Etc.
In fact, for every hour of sedentary behavior, the odds were 46% greater that people older than 60 would have some disability in ordinary skills such as getting around the house and feeding themselves, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.
“A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, including increased incidence for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality,” the researchers wrote. But many people may have thought they’d done what they needed to if they met the government suggestion of 150 minutes a week of moderate activity.
Apparently not so.
The question was whether people were sedentary because they were not doing any exercise, or whether being sedentary was on its own a risk factor for disability in what are called activities of daily living – getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, being able to walk in the house.
The study looked at data from 2003 to 2005 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, a nationwide study that included physical exams along with questionnaires of 2,286 people 60 years and older.
If future studies can confirm that sedentary behavior causes disability, which this study does not, then older people may possibly avoid becoming disabled by being more active throughout the day.
The study can’t say whether a sedentary lifestyle leads to disability or if having a disability leads to a sedentary lifestyle, however.
In addition, the authors note that their records of physical activity may not take into account some forms of exercise, because the devices that participants wore may not pick up upper body movement or cycling. Participants also didn’t wear the devices while swimming.
Stephen Kritchevsky told Reuters Health it’s too early to tell if interventions that get people moving during the day will prevent disability, but they couldn’t hurt because other studies suggest activity improves functioning.
I might, typically, put a caveat on the study’s focus on older Americans — but we know plenty (and increasing numbers of) Ashtanga practitioners who are older. And the researchers are quick to point to a rising number of sedentary children in America.
I’m also, obviously, the one linking this to an Ashtanga asana practice (or any yoga asana practice, I suppose). But I can’t help draw the comparison between a fixed time of activity — that 60 to maybe 120 minutes of your Ashtanga practice — and this study’s delineation between physical activity and sedentary “activity.”
And perhaps because I fall into my above category of person tied to a desk a lot, it really hits home. Because I do like to think that my asana practice is “enough” when it comes to healthy living, fitness-wise.
I do wonder whether physical activity along the lines of yoga — including all the benefits that studies are discovering — would show differently in a study like this. With all the yoga studies happening, maybe that’s on the horizon.
Perhaps the quote from one of the researchers that ends the Times story is a good suggestion: “Just get up and move.”
Posted by Steve