Even if you exercise once a day, new research indicates that you need to get off your behind. More specifically, it turns out sitting too long increases your risk of an early death.
The study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine1 demonstrated that adults who sat for eleven hours or more a day increased their risk of dying by 40% over those who sat for less than four hours a day.
The researchers accounted for confounding variables like weight, health status and even overall physical activity. It was the amount of sitting that mattered.
As I am sitting here writing this, I am wondering how much damage to myself I have already done. It seems like our culture is designed for sitting.
And just so you know, this wasn’t a small study; more than 200,000 subjects were involved and followed for a long period of time.
So What Is It About Sitting That Might Be Causing This?
According to the study authors, the negative effects of sitting are caused by disrupted metabolic functions – leading to vascular health issues.
Extended sitters showed higher plasma triglyceride levels, lower levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol), and reduced insulin sensitivity.
Not good at all… these are all serious negative health indicators.
What To Do With This Information
A 30 minute exercise program did lower the mortality risk of the extended sitters as compared to completely sedentary subjects, but again did not completely make up for the extended sitting periods.
More fascinating is that a 2008 study2 revealed that people who take small breaks (as little as standing up and taking one step) throughout the day were able to reduce the size of their waists and improve other vital signs over people who did not take these small steps.
So it is clear that one should incorporate movement throughout the day, but the question is how (especially if you are chained to your desk).
Because I am no expert in this matter, I did some digging and found a great book by Dr. Toni Yancey, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Yancey has been “anti-sitting” before it became fashionable.
Doctor Yancy’s Advice
In her book, Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time, Dr. Yancy provides this advice:
- Schedule 10-minute activity breaks every day.
- Park farther away from any place you may go
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Create an environment which forces you to get up, like putting the printer in another room.
- Replace desk chairs with stability balls
- Fidget, stand up and stretch at intervals during meetings.
I also recommend getting a headset for your phone and stand up and walk around while on phone calls.
This might not sound like much, but the 2008 study2 I referred to earlier demonstrates pretty remarkable results. Even “mini-breaks” like standing up and wiggling around for a minute at a time can help lower blood sugar, triglycerides, bad cholesterol and waist size.
So get moving! And please share you mini break strategies for health below.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
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2. Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Salmon J, Cerin E, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ, Owen N., Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk, Diabetes Care 2008 Apr;31(4):661-6.