Scientists gather more evidence suggesting that sitting around all day can shorten your life. According to a study by Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, men who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.Researchers have also figured out why some people get fat when they eat too much and other people don’t get fat, even when they eat the same amount:
The people who get fat, get fat because they sit around all day. The people who don’t get fat, don’t sit around as much.
Importantly, the difference between the fatties and the non-fatties in the study had nothing to do with exercise. None of the folks in the “inactivity” study were allowed to exercise. The folks who didn’t get fat didn’t exercise, they just didn’t spend as much time sitting. Instead, they make more little movements like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting.
So why is sitting so bad for you? According to James Vlahos in the New York Times, here is what happens when you sit: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” [inactivity researcher Marc] Hamilton says – leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides – for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it – plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.
The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get aerobic exercise at least a few times a week, you will effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, do suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging.
The good news is that you don’t have to start running marathons to offset all that sitting. You also don’t have to get a treadmill at the office and sweat all day. You just have to get up every hour or two and walk around for a while. Alternatively, you just have to stand instead of sit.
In fact, a new study by researchers in Australia shows that walking around a bit every couple of hours or standing all day is vastly more healthy than sitting all day, no matter what else you do.
So get off your ass!