Mixing it up at work is better than only sitting, or only standing, for the whole day. Or, if you want to get specific, Cornell University experts advise that after sitting for 20-30 minutes, stand up for a bit and move around.
Sitting down, which most of us do for at least eight hours each day, might be the worst thing we do for our health all day. We’ve been preaching the benefits of stand-up desks for a while around here — and no one needs this good news more than social media-obsessed web geeks. A recent medical journal study showed that people who sit for most of their day are 54% more likely to die of a heart attack.
The researchers then cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes, and found that those people with the “highest sedentary behavior,” meaning those who sat the most, had a 112 percent increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147 percent increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The worst news is that hard exercise for an hour a day may not cancel out the damage done by sitting for six hours. According to a 2006 study by an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, men who sit for six hours or more daily have an over-all death rate twenty per cent higher than men who sit for three hours or less—in other words, they are twenty per cent more likely to die of any cause than men who are active.
“Prolonged sitting is not what nature intended for us,” says Dr. Camelia Davtyan, clinical professor of medicine and director of women’s health at the UCLA Comprehensive Health Program. “The chair is out to kill us,” says James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.
Even after controlling for diet, exercise habits and other variables, studies in the past have found those who spent most time sitting have increased risks of diabetes and cardiovascular events and deaths. One study in particular– published in the journal Diabetologia in November of 2012– found a 112 percent increase of diabetes among those who spent more time sitting than standing.
Did you know that sitting for 6 or more hours daily can elevate your chances of dying from cancer and other major diseases – even if you maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke?
- Women who sat for six or more hours daily faced a 37% greater risk of death as compared to those who sat for three hours or less.
- For men, the increased risk of death for those who sat at least six hours daily was 17%.
Those who did not exercise regularly and also sat for long periods faced even greater mortality rates – a startling 94% higher for women and 48% higher for men.
According to the report, published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine, more than half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting: watching television, working at a computer, commuting, or doing other physically inactive pursuits. But all that sitting could be sending us to an early grave—even those folks who exercise up to an hour a day, say the Canadian researchers who did the study.