If You Want to Live Longer, Just Sit Less

It is no big secret that a healthy lifestyle must include exercise, at least a little bit, every day. This continues to become more and more apparent every year as Americans continue to get sucked into sedentary lifestyles—whether as a result of being overworked or because we have lots of passive entertainment options—increasing the risk for worse and worse health outcomes.

But a new study warns that the amount of exercise you get may not matter; that is to say, exercise may not do enough to cancel out sitting around the rest of the day. Indeed, the study says that people who remain seated for most of the day have twice the risk of dying over a 4-year period than those who sit the least.

In the study, researchers closely monitored participants over a 7-day period in order to determine their average sedentary pattern. Generally, the group was sedentary for, on average, 12.3 hours over a 16-hour day. Each “sitting” session was about 11.4 minutes before getting up to move.

The study also took into account variables like age, sex, BMI, race, and exercise habits to determine that total number of hours spent seated is not the only factor. They also found that time lapsed during each sedentary period was also important in the determination of mortality rate spike.

“In short,” explains lead researcher Keith Diaz, Columbia University Medical Center, “we found that long sitting bouts increases a person’s risk of death.”

He continues, “We furthermore studied how long is too long for sitting bouts. We found that those individuals who frequently kept their sitting bouts to less than 30 minutes had a lower risk of death. So if you are a person who sits for long periods at work or at home, we think these findings suggest that taking movement breaks every 30 minutes could reduce your risk of death.”

In regards to total number of sedentary hours, Diaz notes: “Those who sat for more than 13 hours per day had a 2-fold (or 200 percent) greater risk of death compared to those who sat for less than about 11 hours per day,”

While they are not sure, right now, as to the cause of this, Diaz shares, “There is evidence that suggests, but does not prove, that it could be about how our body handles blood sugar.”

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