Long sitting periods may be just as harmful as daily total

Days spent sitting for hours may increase your risk for an early death no matter how much you exercise, researchers say.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“Anything that will facilitate movement would be better: treadmill desks, under desk steppers or cycles, or just plain old fashioned walking breaks that can be pretty easily implemented in an office setting”, Diaz said.

“We think these findings suggest that it is simply not enough to be active or move at just one specific time of the day, that is, exercise”, said lead study author Keith Diaz of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in NY. He is an associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

“We found that there wasn’t a threshold or cutoff where one’s risk for death dramatically increased”, said Diaz, explaining that risk of death increased with more sitting. “You have to do more”.

“We think this gives a clear message that besides exercising, you also should be mindful of moving (and not being sedentary) throughout the day”, Dr. Diaz said.

“Adults are sedentary for an alarming 9 to 10 hours per day”.

Previous studies of adults have found daily sitting time to average just nine to 10 hours per day. Diaz and his team used a hip-mounted accelerometer to objectively measure bouts of sitting.

The study was not created to reveal why sitting increases the risk of early death, noted Alter, who described the study as “methodologically rigorous”, and its findings “robust”.

“We think a more specific guideline could read something like, ‘For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting, ‘ ” he said, adding the study “puts us a step closer to such guidelines”, but more research is needed to verify the findings.

“Some of the best available evidence suggests that excessive sedentary time can cause abnormally high levels of sugar and, over time, could lead to diabetes”. When our muscles are inactive, they are not using blood sugar, and we know that blood sugar can wreak awful consequences on our body.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and followed a national representative population of 8,000 individuals older than 45 for an average of four years.

In an accompanying editorial, David A. Alter, MD, PhD, from the University of Toronto, wrote that the findings by Diaz and colleagues shed light on the effects of sedentary behaviors on mortality. He said, “We don’t yet know what the ideal solutions are to remedy the risks associated with sedentary behavior”.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity.

What’s nearly certain is that the solution will require folks to track their activity and inactivity, Alter said.

Like many of us, executive assistant Meghan Hampsey spends way too many hours sitting behind a desk.

For the study, Diaz and his colleagues reviewed data on almost 8,000 US adults 45 and older who had participated in a previous study.

Measuring duration, the researchers clocked participants sitting, on average, for 11.4 minutes at a stretch.

The researchers recorded 340 deaths over the course of the four-year follow-up.

A higher all-cause mortality risk was associated with both greater total sedentary time (HR = 1.22; 95% CI, 0.74-2.02; HR = 1.61; 95% CI, 0.99-2.63; and HR = 2.63; 95% CI, 1.60-4.30; P for trend .001) and longer sedentary bout duration (HR = 1.03; 95% CI, 0.67-1.60; HR = 1.22; 95% CI, 0.80-1.85; and HR = 1.96; 95% CI, 1.31-2.93; P .001). Still, he said, the study results indicate that those who frequently sat in stretches less than 30 minutes had a 55% lower risk of death compared to people who usually sat for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. “If you sat for over 12 hours on a given day, your risk of death increased substantially”, study author, Dr. Keith Diaz at Columbia University Medical Center said.

“That risk is reduced if we exercise at least 150 minutes per week, but not entirely eliminated”, he concluded.

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