Could how much you sit affect how long you live? | Health
By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD
Whether you're a couch potato or an avid exerciser, you may be interested in research that suggests the amount of leisure time you spend sitting could have a negative impact on how long you live. And that's regardless of how much you exercise.
Exercise still protective, but not a cure-all
It's well known that exercise can help ward off creeping weight gain. It can also keep your mind sharp and help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. But while exercise is still important, the authors of the new study found it's also important to find ways to spend less time sitting.
Whether or not you're physically active, it actually matters how much time you don't spend sitting. Spending 6 or more leisure hours per day sitting may raise your risk of dying earlier from all causes compared to people who spend more time on their feet.
Physical activity does not always trump "sitting time"
The study did show a difference between sitters who exercised and those who didn't. The least active people in the study had the greatest risk of dying earlier. But people in both groups had a greater chance of dying earlier than people who sat for 3 hours or less.
Strategies to reduce leisure time sitting
Think about how you spend your time away from work. Do you have a long commute? Are you a TV or computer addict? These days, it's easy to rack up 6 or more sedentary hours without even realizing it.
You may not be able to change your commute. And perhaps you're not ready to give up your evening TV or computer time. Still, there are some simple strategies you can try to reduce overall sitting time. Talk to your doctor before you increase your activity level.
For starters, look into buying a pedometer. Aim for 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, but break them up, so you are not sedentary for long periods. Wearing a pedometer can encourage you to get up and walk around, if only to see the numbers climb. You can find pedometers at your local fitness or sports store.
- Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This will strengthen your abs and back. The effects of the little work it takes to stay balanced far outweighs those of sitting quietly.
- If you take the bus for your commute, get off one stop earlier if possible and walk the rest of the way
- Walk around while talking on the phone.
- Jump rope, step side to side, do leg lifts, or march in place during TV commercials.
- Exercise while watching your favorite show, for example by walking on the treadmill or using the elliptical.
- Take frequent breaks if you spend large amounts of home time on the computer. To remind yourself to move, set an alarm that goes off every half hour.
Just keep in mind that the more you make yourself get up out of your chair, the greater chance you have of prolonging your life.