Get off your seat for better health
Sitting too much could be bad for the heart, even if you exercise regularly.
A recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that the more time people were sedentary – watching television, working on the computer, etc. – the higher their risk for heart disease and diabetes, among other ills.
“This is a different way to think about physical activity,” says Dr. Vineet Dandekar, cardiologist with the Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “It’s not about exercising more; it’s about sitting less.”
Researchers in Canada found that more than half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting. The more time people spent sedentary – even among people who exercised regularly – the higher the risk of dying from all causes.
For heavy sitters, data showed a 90-percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who sat less; an 18-percent higher chance of dying of heart disease or cancer; and a 24-percent greater chance of dying from any cause. These findings are the average among people whether they exercised regularly or not.
“In the medical profession, this is a new concept,” Dr. Dandekar says. “We encourage exercise, but now that by itself is not enough. Not everyone can do the level of physical activity recommended, but just about anyone can improve their sedentary lifestyle in some way.”
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity, such as walking, at least five days per week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week. Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week offers additional cardiovascular health benefits.
To lower blood pressure or cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends a 40 minutes of aerobic activity three or four times a week. Experts also say standing increases the metabolism and burns twice as many calories as sitting.
Despite the exercise recommendations, the combination of less sitting and more activity proves healthiest for the body.
“Start by analyzing how much of your day is spent sitting, and take small steps from there,” Dr. Dandekar says. “Most people live more sedentary lifestyles, and they have to make an active effort to improve it, even if it’s just a little bit.”
Dr. Dandekar suggests standing up or moving around every half hour when sitting at a desk; standing up during commercials when watching TV; taking the stairs when given the option; and parking further away from destinations.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.