Is sitting down killing you? According to recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sitting down for long durations is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.
The meta-analysis reviewed studies focused on sedentary behaviour. The lead author is Avi Biswas, a PhD candidate from the University of Toronto, whilst Dr. David Alter is the senior author and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
“More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary – sitting, watching television, or working at a computer,” said Dr. David Alter. “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”
Although these might seem like alarming statistics, especially amongst office workers who are achieving their recommended physical activity guidelines, the results are even more damning for inactive sedentary people.
The authors found the negative effects of sitting time on health, are more pronounced among those who do little or no exercise than among those who participate in higher amounts of exercise.
“Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival,” said Dr. Alter. “It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours
Dr. Alter underlines strategies people can use to reduce sitting time. The target is to decrease sedentary time by two to three hours in a 12-hour day.
“The first step is to monitor sitting times — once we start counting, we’re more likely to change our behaviour,” said Dr. Alter. “Next is setting achievable goals and finding opportunities to incorporate greater physical activity — and less time sitting — into your daily life. For example, at work, stand up or move for one to three minutes every half hour; and when watching television, stand or exercise during commercials.”
So what are you waiting for? If you sit for a long time at work, maybe it’s time to get up and stretch your legs.
Aviroop Biswas, Paul I. Oh, Guy E. Faulkner, Ravi R. Bajaj, Michael A. Silver, Marc S. Mitchell, and David A. Alter. Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2015 DOI: 10.7326/M14-165