By now you probably know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for you. It turns out that it’s not just sitting, but your method of sitting that can do you in. Researchers have found that people who sit for an hour or two at a time without getting up have a higher mortality rate than adults who sit cumulatively as long, but in shorter stretches.
The researchers at Columbia University Medical Center measured inactivity in nearly 8,000 adults using hip-mounted activity monitors. For seven days they measured the subjects’ waking hours movement, as part of the REGARDS study which examines stroke disparities based on race and region.
Said lead researcher Keith Diaz: “We tend to think of sedentary behavior 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.”
The subjects spent on average more than 12 hours each day sedentary, or 77 percent of their waking hours. The most sedentary, clocking 13-plus hours a day and sitting 60 to 90 minutes at a time, had double the risk of death over a four-year period, compared the least sedentary participants.
Likewise, subjects who sat for no more than 30 minutes at a spell had the lowest mortality in the follow-up period. Said Diaz: “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 behavior change could reduce your risk of death, although we don’t yet know precisely how much activity is optimal.”
Added co-author Monika Safford, MD: “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.”