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Health Top Stories

Long periods of sitting are killing you — even if you exercise

9Coach logo 9Coach 12/09/2017 Sam Downing

Woman sitting at desk © Mint Images/REX/Shutterstock Woman sitting at desk “I spend too much time sitting down” is just one entry on the long, long, long list of health concerns we’re all burdened by. But standing up and moving every half an hour will undo some of the damage of all that time spent on your butt.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) make that recommendation off the back of a new paper published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Their study uncovered a clear link between total sedentary time and an increased risk of early death. But it also found that spending long, uninterrupted stints without moving is just as risky, regardless of how much you exercise.

Analysing the physical activity of almost 8000 US adults determined that those with the greatest overall sedentary time, as well as those who frequently remained sedentary for 60 to 90 minutes, almost doubled their risk of early death.

“We tend to think of sedentary behaviour as just the sheer volume of how much we sit around each day,” said the study’s lead investigator Dr Keith Diaz, from CUMC’s Department of Medicine, in a statement.

“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.”

On average, the participants in the study were sedentary for 77 percent of their waking hours, equivalent to more than 12 hours.

(Don’t look down your nose at those lazy Americans too fast. The statistics on Australians’s physical activity levels are just as grim: on average, we’re sedentary for 70 percent of our waking hours.)

On the bright side, those who broke up their sedentary time every half an hour had the lowest risk of early death.

“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,” said Diaz.

“This one behaviour change could reduce your risk of death, although we don’t yet know precisely how much activity is optimal.”

The study co-author Dr Monika Safford’s added that the research underscores that “sitting really is the new smoking”, particularly long periods of sitting.

“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,” she said.

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