You know that office chair you spend so much time in? The one you’ve piloted through countless hours of research? Where you’ve churned out so many reports and emails? Yes, it’s killing you.
Studies that conclusively show higher levels of sitting contribute to higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease were pioneered by top scientists recruited to Louisiana by LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The center, now in its third decade of chronic-disease research, continues to produce new, life-altering scientific knowledge.
“The risks associated with sedentary behavior appear to be on par with the risks associated with smoking and obesity,” says Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Pennington Biomedical’s associate executive director of Population and Public Health Sciences.
So it’s no surprise Katzmarzyk’s research, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, also shows physical inactivity causes millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars worldwide.
What does that mean to the average business person?
A lot, if you are at risk.
Middle-aged adults who sat more than 12.5 hours per day had the highest risk for all-cause mortality, according to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
And no one sits more than office workers. Mechanical engineers, human resource managers, lawyers, insurance agents, and accountants spend at least 74 percent of their workday sitting, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software developers log the most chair time at 90 percent.
Dr. Keith M. Diaz of New York’s Columbia University Medical Center told MedPage Today that excessive sitting might be “a toxic, hazardous behavior.”
Diaz and his research colleagues say it’s not clear why sitting so much contributes to all-cause mortality.
The researchers suggested two possible reasons: poor glucose control and blood vessel damage.
Sitting too long can lead to abnormally high levels of blood sugar, and eventually those high levels of blood sugar can lead to diabetes. Meanwhile, sitting for hours means blood pools in your legs. Add in decreased and turbulent blood flow and you have what is thought to be an environment conducive to forming plaque in the blood vessels.
“Sitting totally deactivates our major leg muscles and creates disruptions in our metabolism that are known to have implications for the development of several chronic diseases, which ultimately could impact all-cause mortality,” Katzmarzyk says.
But the news isn’t all bad. Pennington’s research also offers a simple solution:
If you have to sit for prolonged periods, take a movement break every half hour.
“It isn’t necessary for people to replace the time spent sitting with vigorous exercise,” Katzmarzyk says. “Replacing it with light activities like walking has been shown to be beneficial.” Furthermore, if you limit the time you spend seated to less than three hours a day, Katzmarzyk’s research shows you could add an estimated two years to your life.
Workstations, such as the Pennington Pedal Desk, are now available to help. These devices allow office workers to stand, walk or pedal while working on their computer or other desk-based tasks. And employers don’t have to invest in new equipment. There are plenty of smartphone apps and other technologies available that prompt workers to take a break from sitting.
Unfortunately, the dangers of sitting too much aren’t limited to the office. It’s not healthy at home either. Your sofa might as well be a well-upholstered angel of death. The same goes for your favorite recliner.
Katzmarzyk found if you limit sitting in front of a TV to less than two hours a day, you could add an estimated 1.4 years to your life.
Things You Can Do
- Support workstations that allow office workers to stand, walk or pedal.
- Use smart phone apps that remind you to get up and walk
Sedentary behavior and exercise are two separate risk factors, Katzmarzyk says. That means each one can be targeted for change. To get the greatest health benefit, you can both decrease time spent sitting and increase the time spent exercising.
“High levels of moderate and vigorous activities of 60 to 80 minutes per day can almost wipe out the hazardous effects of sitting,” Katzmarzyk says.
Even for couch potatoes, improving your health is as easy as swapping some sitcoms for sit-ups — or just a simple stroll around the block.
For more information on Pennington Biomedical‘s research visit pbrc.edu or sign up for our newsletters at XXXXX
About Pennington Biomedical Research Center
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 57 faculty and more than 18 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 40 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical’s more than 450 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more information, see http://www.pbrc.edu.