Take a stand for life expectancy by sitting less

In a rare downturn of events, a recent study bears grim news for which you should not sit down.  

According to the report’s findings, parking it for more than three hours a day can shave two years off of an individual’s life expectancy, regardless of regular exercise habits. Add channel surfing for more than two hours daily to that mix and wipe out another 1.4 years, the study dictates. Given those figures, researchers posit that being chair-bound can do the same damage to life expectancy as smoking can.

Current daily exercise recommendations handed down by the government suggest that an adult should be involved in a moderate level of activity for at least a half-hour each day, a slim margin that should be enhanced to suit the purpose of keeping people on their feet, researchers insisted. And for the remainder of the day spent away from gyms, weights and training sneakers, analysis wards the public to do its best not to sit one out.

The bottom line: No matter if “you’re physically active and meet the exercise guidelines or if you’re not active, sitting is bad,” Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and lead author of the report published in the online journal BMJ Open, told Time magazine.

Katzmarzyk’s paper was comprised of data he and his colleagues collected from five other studies that queried subjects about their sedentary routines. Researchers documented whether participants spent their downtime in front of a television screen, computer screen or no screen at all. After screening for the mortality risks concurrent with the aforementioned sedentary activities, Katzmarzyk’s team calculated how many years of life could be gained if these factors were eliminated from the life expectancy equation.

Similar experiments, such as the one published last August in Australia, also trumpet the downside of down time — it was discovered that those who watch six hours of TV a day lived 4.8 years less than those who didn’t watch television at all. Moreover, every hour spent watching television after the age of 25 was forecasted to decrease life expectancy by 22 minutes.

Current surveys are showing that individuals worldwide spend roughly 300 minutes — 20 percent of their day — sitting. Decreasing this time spent inactive could tack years back onto a life, Katzmarzyk suggested.

“What the results mean is that we got everyone in the U.S. to sit less, our population life expectancy would be two years higher, so instead of living to 78.5, we would be expected to live to 80.5 years old,” he said. “That’s a really big deal.”

Researchers did note the difficulty inherent in taking this stand, though, as many adults are confined to occupations which require hours be spent wedged behind a desk each day. It was advised that physicians tell their patients who work in such environments to take repeated breaks from their seats throughout the day by going for a walk or speaking with colleagues. This won’t stand in for exercise experts claim, but it’s a sure rise above the chair.  

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