Sitting to Death? New Study Suggests Sitting Less than 3 Hours Can Increase Life Expectancy

By Rebecca Lewis on July 11, 2012

Most people spend about thirty minutes sitting while taking their breakfast, another thirty minutes or more in the car, and eight hours sitting in their desk. Add two hours on the couch while watching TV or reading a book. Feels good? Well, this lifestyle can take away plenty of years off your life, a new study suggests.

Sitting less than 3 hours a day may add 2 years on to our lives, scientists say. Similarly, cutting TV viewing down to two hours could extend life by almost 1.4 years. The new findings was published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Sitting as a Risk Factor

We have known that smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical exercises are the biggest risk factors, which have been associated with a wide variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer and stroke. And just recently, experts are looking into the effects of sitting to one’s overall health. In an American study, it was found that adults spend 55% of their day sitting. Lack of physical activities has been linked to diabetes and heart problems. Sitting is a risk factor and not a disease, said Dr Peter Katzmarzyk, an associate executive director for population science at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre at Louisiana State University System in Baton Rouge, La. He compares sitting with obesity and has effects that are almost close to that of smoking.

In a study which involved nearly 167,000, the researchers looked into the average time spent by Americans watching TV. Based on the data gathered from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers concluded that limiting the hours spent on sitting can increase the life expectancy rate in America.

"We sit to eat and don’t tend to stand up a whole lot," Katzmarzyk said. "We need to turn that around and engineer sitting out of our lives." They suggest sitting for not more than 3 hours a day.

Is it possible?

Imagine spending most of your time not sitting, is it possible? What if you’re a typical office worker who spends around 8 hours in front of a computer? Well, there are several ways to increase your physical activity without having to change your job. Some companies for instance, are adopting the use of standing desks or treadmill desks rather than the traditional office chairs. Instead of sending an email, Katzmarzyk suggests walking and replying the message in person. Moving makes us feel better, said Garry Sigman, MD, director of the paediatric obesity program of Loyola University Medical Centre in Maywood, Illinois. He recommends walking during lunch break for those who have desk jobs and spending leisure moments in physical activities rather than sitting.

The American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute recommends spending 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercises, five times a week to stay healthy.

It’s not easy for experts to say that watching TV can kill you, because there’s no cause-effect relationship established in death and watching TV. However, what they can be sure of, said Katzmarzyk, is that sedentary activities like watching TV or driving are risk factors.

While there’s still much research needed to prove the link between prolonged sitting and mortality rate, the take-home message is that reducing the time spent on sitting has amazing health benefits.

 

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