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Believe it or not, you might be a sedentary triathlete!

What the Canadian Movement Guidelines have to do with you.

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Some big news in the field of exercise science was released in late 2020. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released their 24-hour movement guidelines for adults aged 18 to 64. These guidelines are meant to inform those who work in the field of health and exercise as to what reasonable, healthy physical activity looks like. The big question is – what does this have to do with me as a triathlete?

Well, as you might expect, a major cornerstone of these guidelines is the inclusion of moderate and vigorous physical activity. The guidelines call for 150 total minutes of accumulated moderate to vigorous activity per week. This recommendation is probably no surprise, as the call for regular physical activity is something that we have been hearing for years. Luckily, most triathletes probably look at this and laugh; “150 minutes per week?  I do 150 minutes some days!”  This is great and puts us active triathletes well ahead when aiming to achieve a healthy balance of movement in our lives and reaping the numerous health benefits of an active lifestyle.

However, the reason that these movement guidelines are big news is not because of their inclusion of specific exercise recommendations, but because they address behaviours in the non-exercising parts of our life. One area they specifically consider is the amount of sedentary activity in which we engage. The impact of sedentary behaviours on our health has become more well understood recently and we now know that extended periods of sitting increase our risk of suffering poor health-outcomes, even if we are otherwise physically active. Yup, you heard that right, being active for 150 minutes per week (or even way more) does not mean that you get to lounge around and sit on your butt the rest of the day. This is where the biggest shift in mentality and behaviour is needed for most triathletes. We often think that we have earned this right to be sedentary, heck we may even really need it after some workouts. Our lives may also lend themselves to long, uninterrupted periods of sitting, likely exacerbated as more and more of our lives have shifted online. It can be all too easy to sit down at your desk and not get back up again for several hours, despite having had meetings with people at three different organizations in two different cities. Many of us aren’t even getting the light physical activity involved in our old commutes – there’s no more walking to the bus or to and from the parking lot if you are working from home.

The first step to dealing with this issue is to see how bad it is. One easy way is to do a quick “sitting audit.” Create a little chart with two columns, “Time I sat down” and “Time I stood back up.” Fill in that chart for a period of three to five days and then add it up. How many total hours are you sitting every day and how long are those periods of sitting?  If you are sitting down for more than eight hours a day or sitting for more one to two hours at a time without getting up, you may benefit from switching some things up. In my next article I will present some ways you can break up this sedentary activity in a way that will increase your overall health and improve your triathlon performance at the same time. In the meantime, do the audit and see for yourself – are you a sedentary triathlete?

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Darian Silk is a triathlon coach and Clinical Exercise Physiologist based in Toronto.  Read more about Darian  or email him at darian@teamatomica.com.  You can also check out his TrainingPeaks profile here : https://www.trainingpeaks.com/coach/darian-atomica

References:

Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults ages 18-64 years. (2020). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://csepguidelines.ca/adults-18-64/

Travis J. Saunders, Travis McIsaac, Kevin Douillette, Nick Gaulton, Stephen Hunter, Ryan E. Rhodes, Stephanie A. Prince, Valerie Carson, Jean-Philippe Chaput, Sebastien Chastin, Lora Giangregorio, Ian Janssen, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Michelle E. Kho, Veronica J. Poitras, Kenneth E. Powell, Robert Ross, Amanda Ross-White, Mark S. Tremblay, and Genevieve N. Healy. Sedentary behaviour and health in adults: an overview of systematic reviews. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 45(10 (Suppl. 2)): S197-S217. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2020-0272