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Leading a sedentary lifestyle has long been linked to greater risks of obesity due to weight gain, as well as other problems including a lack of energy, poor digestive health, high stress levels, and even death.
However, with businesses getting leaner, and workloads getting heavier, most of today’s professionals spend a majority of their waking hours sitting down. In fact, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sedentary behaviour accounted for 77% of adults’ waking hours (equivalent to more than 12 hours per day).
Thankfully, the study also uncovered that taking a movement break every half hour can alleviate the risk of death associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Dr. Keith Diaz, associate research scientist in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and lead investigator of the study, said: “We tend to think of sedentary behaviour as just the sheer volume of how much we sit around each day. But previous studies have suggested that sedentary patterns—whether an individual accrues sedentary time through several short stretches or fewer long stretches of time—may have an impact on health.
Using hip-mounted activity monitors to objectively measure inactivity during waking time over a period of seven days in 7,985 black and white adults over age 45, the researchers found that those with the greatest amount of sedentary time (more than 13 hours per day) and who frequently had sedentary bouts of at least 60 to 90 consecutive minutes had a nearly two-fold increase in death risk compared with those who had the least total sedentary time and the shortest sedentary bouts.
The researchers also found that participants who kept most of their sitting bouts to less than 30 minutes had the lowest risk of death.
Dr. Diaz said: “So if you have a job or lifestyle where you have to sit for prolonged periods of time, we suggest taking a movement break every half hour. This one behaviour change could reduce your risk of death, although we don’t yet know precisely how much activity is optimal.”
Study co-author Dr. Monika Safford, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and the John J. Kuiper Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, and an internist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, commented: “This study adds to the growing literature on how dangerous long periods of sitting are for our health, and underscores a growing awareness among clinicians and researchers that sitting really is the new smoking.”
“We need creative ways to ensure that we not only cut back on the total amount we sit, but also increase regular interruptions to sitting with bursts of activity.”
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