How sitting too long each day can shorten your lifespan — and what to do about it

We read a lot about the positive effects of physical activity on longevity. So it should come as no surprise to learn that reverse is true — as reported here, a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of mortality.

The article itemizes numerous studies confirming the negative effects of sitting too long:

  • Individuals who sit for more than 6 hours a day have a 19% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who sit for less than 3 hours a day
  • Another study found that women who spend more than 6 hours a day sitting had a 37% increased risk of premature death from any cause, compared to women who spent less than 3 hours a day sitting
  • In another study, prolonged sitting time was associated with impaired mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle, which in turn can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes
  • Another study found that sedentary behavior was associated with increased markers of cellular senescence in older women
  • A study found that prolonged sitting time was associated with reduced level of a signaling molecule called itnerleukin-6 which is involved in immune function and inflammation
  • A study found that sedentary behavior was associated with increased DNA damage and mutations

There are several things you can do to fix this.

  • At least break up your prolonged sitting time. Take breaks to stand, stretch or walk around. One study found that breaking up sitting time with short bouts of activity, such as walking, every 30 minutes, can improve markers of cardiometabolic health.
  • Consider a standing desk. This need not be expensive. You can get an adjustable riser that sits on your regular desk for under $100 on Amazon.
  • Regular physical activity can mitigate the negative effects of too much sitting. About half an hour a day of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, can be very beneficial. Strength training, such as resistance bands or hand-held weights, can improve muscle mass that would be weakened by too much sitting.

As we continue to write about these topics, we’re constantly struck by the great benefits that can result from relatively modest actions, applied consistently. For most of us, there’s no reason to be too sedentary, and it’s easy to fix.

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