Sitting for too long is bad for your health, research shows, but counteracting the effects is easy


Sure, you’ve heard about the dangers of sitting all day, but for most jobs, there’s not much you can do about it, right?

Not according to a new study investigating the effects of sitting.

According to research published Thursday in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, walking lightly for five minutes every half hour can help mitigate the increased risk associated with prolonged sitting throughout the day.

The study’s lead author, Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, said the scientific community has known for decades that prolonged sitting increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. risk. But until now, there have been no clear guidelines on how long you can sit and how often you should move.

“We’ve known for about a decade that prolonged sitting increases the risk of most chronic diseases and increases the risk of early death,” said Diaz, who also serves as director of the university’s Exercise Testing Laboratory. Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health. “Just like how much fruit and vegetables they should eat and how much exercise they should get, we need to give (people) specific guidance on how to combat the harms of sitting.”

Walking speeds can be as low as 1.9 miles per hour, which is slower than most people’s normal walk, Diaz said. The goal is to break up the sitting position with some movement.

In this study, several health indicators were measured for different combinations of sitting posture and walking time. Although the sample size was small, the study was rigorous and the methodology was robust, said Matthew Bouman, dean of ASU’s College of Health Solutions. Bouman was not involved in the study,

Scientists don’t yet know why being sedentary is so bad, but the working theory is that muscles are important in regulating things like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. But when you sit for too long, your muscles don’t get the chance to contract and function optimally, says Diaz.

Does five minutes every half hour still seem like a lot of work? Even a small “activity snack” like a one-minute walk every hour lowered the study participants’ blood pressure by a “substantial amount,” Diaz said.

All of the study’s participants were typically healthy adults, Buman said, meaning those with chronic medical conditions may see greater benefits.

Many workplaces require people to sit for long periods of the day, but finding ways to exercise is important, experts say.

Even with clearer guidelines, regular transfers still seem out of reach if the office culture doesn’t encourage them.

“Many of us live sedentary or sedentary lifestyles, or have sedentary jobs,” Diaz said. “With these social norms, if you’re away from your desk, people think you’re not working.”

Diaz has struggled to convince employers of the importance of moving during the workday — not just for personal health, but for the bottom line.

“Sedentary work is an occupational hazard, and healthy workers are more productive,” he said.

The team found that participants who broke out of sitting had more than just physical health benefits. They also found it reduced fatigue and improved mood, Diaz said.

“If you’re only concerned with the bottom line of your productivity, then just sitting at your desk for 8 hours might not actually be that great,” he added.

Despite their popularity, standing desks may not be the answer.

“I’m not sure there’s solid scientific evidence that standing is really better than sitting,” says Diaz. “I’m concerned that people will be mistaken for being healthy by using this table, when maybe they’re actually not that good.”

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What Diaz really hopes people take away from this study is that getting enough exercise is achievable.

Moving doesn’t have to mean leaving your desk if it doesn’t fit with your workplace culture, says CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a mind-body coach for professional athletes.

Recent research has only looked at the effectiveness of walking, but Santas says there are other ways to build muscle on a regular basis.

“You can do box squats simply by standing up, sitting down lightly, then popping up again, and repeating the movement over and over again,” Santas said in an email.

If you do have access to more space, Santa likes to recommend a dance break.

“Since most songs are at least 3 minutes in length on average, you can dance away the negative effects of sitting. And, as a bonus – dancing to your favorite tunes will lift your mood too!” she says.

For those with limited mobility or who use a wheelchair, there are still ways to break up sedentary time.

Santa Claus said that everyone should hold out their hands in every direction. People in wheelchairs can do stretches, side bends and twists in the chair, she added.

“Even if you can’t move your lower body and actually stand up from sitting, actively taking deep breaths to engage your diaphragm and move your ribs is good for your posture and overall health,” says Santas.

“The overall message is to move in as many ways as you can,” Bouman said.

Diaz added that the bar doesn’t have to be high to move. “To the extent you can break up your sitting with some sort of exercise break, you’ll still generate some benefit,” he says.

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