A Healthier U

By Julie Kiefer, Manager, Science Communications, University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs

A new study suggests that engaging in low intensity activities such as standing may not be enough to offset the health hazards of sitting for long periods of time. On the bright side, adding two minutes of walking each hour to your routine just might do the trick. These findings were published in the “Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

walkingNumerous studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time each day leads to increased risk for early death, as well as heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions. Considering that 80 percent of Americans fall short of completing the recommended amount of exercise, 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week, it seems unrealistic to expect that people will replace sitting with even more exercise.

With this in mind, scientists at the University of Utah School of Medicine investigated the health benefits of a more achievable goal, trading sitting for lighter activities for short periods of time. They used observational data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to examine whether longer durations of low intensity activities (e.g. standing), and light intensity activities (e.g. casual walking, light gardening, cleaning) extends the life span of people who are sedentary for more than half of their waking hours.

They found that there is no benefit to decreasing sitting by two minutes each hour, and adding a corresponding two minutes more of low intensity activities. However, a “trade-off” of sitting for light intensity activities for two minutes each hour was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

“It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity. To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing,” says lead author Srinivasan Beddhu, M.D., professor of internal medicine.

Beddhu explains that while it’s obvious that it takes energy to exercise, strolling and other light activities use energy, too. Even short walks add up to a lot when repeated many times over the course of a week. Assuming 16 waking hours each day, two minutes of strolling each hour expends 400 kcal each week. That number approaches the 600 kcal it takes to accomplish the recommended weekly goal of moderate exercise. It is also substantially larger than the 50 kcal needed to complete low intensity activities for two minutes each  hour over the course of one week.

“Based on these results we would recommend adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, which should include 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week,” says Beddhu. Moderate exercise strengthens the heart, muscles and bones, and confers health benefits that low and light intensity activities can’t.

The study examined 3,243 NHANES participants who wore accelerometers that objectively measured the intensities of their activities. Participants were followed for three years after the data were collected; there were 137 deaths during this period.

“Exercise is great, but the reality is that the practical amount of vigorous exercise that can be achieved is limited. Our study suggests that even small changes can have a big impact,” says senior author Tom Greene, Ph.D., director of the Study Design and Biostatistics Center at the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

Beddhu adds that large, randomized, interventional trials will be needed to definitively answer whether exchanging sitting for light activities leads to better health.

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Beddhu and Greene performed the study with Guo Wei and Robin Marcus from the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Michel Chonchol from University of Colorado.

The work was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the University of Utah Study Design and Biostatistics Center at the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (funded in part by the National Center for Research Resources).

The study will appear as “Light-Intensity Physical Activities and Mortality in the United States General Population and CKD Subpopulation in CJASN online on April 30, 2015



Junk Food

You sat down to eat a few bites of ice cream and before you knew it, the whole pint was gone. Do you think a little extra exercise will negate what you ate? Think again. It would take four hours and 13 minutes of walking at a moderate pace to burn off the calories.

Click here to read the full story.

Fresh avocado


There’s a new low carb diet that’s trending called Whole30. The concept, essentially, is this: cut out dairy, alcohol, grains, legumes, processed sugars and sugar substitutes, carrageenan, MSG and sulfites for 30 days. The goal: create healthy eating habits, break cravings and cut food addictions.

Read the full story here.

For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.

During the month of May, Huntsman Cancer Institute patients, caregivers and staff will exhibit artwork and photos created in the Artist in Residence program and the Photovoice with Adult Cancer Survivors study. The exhibit will be on display in the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, located at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. An opening reception will be held May 6 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

“The [Photovoice] participants are very excited about the exhibit and about having a larger audience learn about their experiences with cancer,” says Jennifer Mijangos, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, a social worker with HCI Patient and Family Support and one of the Photovoice facilitators.

The Photovoice study, a collaboration between HCI Patient and Family Support and the University of Utah College of Social Work, explores how cancer can affect identity and personal development. In this study, cancer survivors use photography to share stories with peers who have had similar experiences.
The Photovoice study is completed, but the research team and facilitators are exploring the possibility of future Photovoice studies or photography programs.

Artist in Residence is a program offered through HCI’s Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness and Integrative Health Center and funded by LiveStrong and the Creative Center. The program features a local artist teaching workshops at HCI to patients, their families, and staff. Art projects run the gamut from paintings to ceramics to jewelry.

Patients in the Artist in Residence program say creating art takes their mind off the pain, grief and stress of cancer.

But “it’s more than just a distraction,” says program participant Teri Kaplan. “It helps move you through cancer and past it.”

“You lose yourself and get totally involved in doing something that excites you and that you have passion for,” adds participant Neva Lewis.

For more information about the exhibit or the May 6 opening reception, contact Mara Carrasco at mara.carrasco@hci.utah.edu or 801-587-4585.