We all know that sitting for long periods is bad for you, even deadly. However, most studies have not followed a group of people over a long period of time while tracking their sedentary behavior. When researchers at Columbia University did, they made a shocking find about which sort of sitting is the worst when it comes to the risk of heart disease and death.
Hint: it’s not sitting at a desk all day, it’s what many people do after that – sacking out in front of the TV, oftentimes for a large number of hours. That’s the sort of sitting that poses real health risks, researchers found.
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“It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently,” explained study author Keith M. Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University, in a release. “The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”
“More research is needed, but it’s possible that just taking a short break from your TV time and going for a walk may be enough to offset the harm of leisure-time sitting,” Diaz added.
For the study, whose findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers followed 3,592 African-Americans living in Jackson, Missouri for nearly eight-and-a-half years. The subjects reported how long they sat in front of the TV each day, as well as how much time they sat at work. They also reported how much time they spent on daily exercise.
It was found that participants who spent four hours or more watching TV every day had a 50% greater risk of heart disease and death compared to those who spent two hours or less in front of the TV.
And sitting down at work wasn’t as bad as researchers expected: the participants who sat the most for their jobs had the same health risks as the subjects who sat the least overall. This indicates that there is a contrast in the heart health effects of sitting and work and sprawling in front of a TV.
So what is to be done? Exercise, of course.
“Our findings show that how you spend your time outside of work may matter more when it comes to heart health,” said Diaz. “Even if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, replacing the time you spend sitting at home with tenuous exercise could reduce your risk of heart disease and death.”