Excessive sitting could shorten lives

March 30, 2012, 10:58 a.m.

A new study has found that too much sitting may shorten your life. (Credit: Victor1558/Flickr Creative Commons)

If you've been sitting at your computer for a while, you might want to take a walk before reading this.

A new study has found that too much sitting may shorten lives. Australian researchers looked at 222,497 people 45 and older and found that people who reported sitting for at least 11 hours a day were 40 percent more likely to die during the three-year study than the subjects who sat less than four hours a day.

The link between sitting and shortened lives remained even after the research team accounted for a person's exercise habits, medical conditions and smoking habits. 5,400 subjects died during the study.

The study doesn't prove that sitting itself cuts people's lives short, Hidde van der Ploeg, the study's lead researcher from the University of Sydney, told Reuters. Still, the results are consistent with other studies that have suggested too much sitting is bad for you.

Mark Tremblay, an obesity and activity researcher at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, told Reuters that sitting "or reclining, especially in front of screens, is bad for you regardless of age." And the fact that people work out every day is not an insurance against the damage sitting can do, he added. He explained that time spent doing exercise and time spent sitting might affect long-term disease risks separately.

Van der Ploeg's said too much sitting might affect blood vessels and metabolism by increasing fats in the blood stream and lowering good cholesterol, explaining that when a person is sitting, the leg muscles aren't working, which means fats and glucose aren't being cleared from the blood.

For those with sedentary jobs, Tremblay and van der Ploeg recommended standing up while on the phone or in a meeting, drinking enough water so that you have to go to the bathroom at least four times a day and taking a walk every once in a while.

South L.A. (and other inner city areas) have a sitting problem, Brian Leung told OnCentral in February. Leung is the director of the School Psychology Program and chair of the Department of Educational Support Services in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University.

He said there's a lack of opportunities to exercise in a place like South L.A., noting the higher crime rate which makes exercising outdoors, especially at night, less desirable.

Beyond work, he explained, families of a low socioeconomic status won't exercise because they're tired from working so much, or simply have no interest. And because children often lack supervision after school, "they engage in activities that are not healthy – sitting in front of the TV or video games, eating junk food."

Researchers of the study recommended that public health programs focus on reducing "sitting time" in addition to promoting the importance of physical activity.

Photo by Victor1558 via Flickr Creative Commons.

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