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You Might Want to Stand Up for This…

August 8, 2010

An interesting bit of health information got buried by other news last month.

A new study seems to indicate that the more we sit around, the shorter our lifespan. Imagine that. We’re eroding our lifespan sitting at the computer (I’m doing it now!), watching television, playing video games, etc.

The study was published online in the July 22 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The authors of the study analyzed responses from questionnaires filled out by 123,216 people (53,440 men and 69,776 women) with no history of disease who were participating in the Cancer Prevention II study conducted by the American Cancer Society. Participants were followed for 14 years, from 1993 to 2006.

According to researchers, more time spent sitting — and we’re talking leisure time here — was associated with higher risk of mortality, especially among women.

Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day.

By the way, being physically active didn’t change the mortality risk for people who spent long periods of leisure time sitting. However, people who not physically active increased their mortality risk all the more. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94 percent and 48 percent more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.

Although the research was conducted by the American Cancer Society (my employer, for the record), the study points out a higher risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease, not cancer.

“Several factors could explain the positive association between time spent sitting and higher all-cause death rates,” said Alpa Patel, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the study. “Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin, which are biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.”

Researchers conclude that “public health messages and guidelines should be refined to include reducing time spent sitting in addition to being physically active.”

So, while you’re watching television, playing video games or farming on Facebook, get up and walk around every once in a while. Your life could depend on it.

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