New research has shown that sitting down for long periods of time during the day is even more unhealthy than was previously thought.
People with sedentary lifestyles are at risk of developing several diseases linked specifically to sitting still for too long. If you sit at a desk all day in an office and/or sit in front of your laptop or TV all evening, or all weekend, you’re at greater risk than normal of developing diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Diabetes is a disease which currently affects 8.3% of the U.S. population, say the American Diabetes Association. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease develops when fat builds up in the liver and affects insulin resistance. The disease can then trigger Type 2 diabetes. Sitting for most of the day also puts you at risk of becoming obese, and obesity carries its own health risks.
One important finding in new research into regular and extended sitting is that, if you regularly sit still for long periods of time, your health won’t be protected by taking occasional vigorous excercise. You may pound the sidewalk for an hour on Saturday morning or do sit-ups from time to time, but your body knows if you regularly sit still for long stretches of time – and your health suffers.
One study published in 2011 demonstrated that sitting still for more than six hours a day can increase not just your risk of illness, but your risk of dying. The risk is more pronounced in women than in men.
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that inactivity creates physical changes in the body that signifcantly increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. “Inactivity” is defined as taking fewer than 5,000 steps over the course of the day. It appears that rather than take most of those steps all at once, it’s healthier for your body if you take 500 to 1000 steps every few hours. Small but regular bursts of exercise like that counteract periods of inactivity and are good for general health and heart health. A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that people who exercise for fewer than 150 minutes a day are at lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who take no exercise at all.
John Thyfault is Assistant Professor in nutrition and exercise physiology at the university. He explains that:
“If people can add some regular movement into their routines throughout the day, they will feel better and be less susceptible to health problems.” On obesity, he points out that although short spells of regular exercise may not lead to weight loss, they may have the benefit of preventing further weight gain.
The research findings from the University of Missouri will be published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.