Sitting Decreases Life Expectancy

By Amir Khan on July 10, 2012 9:47 AM EDT

sitting at desk
All those hours in a desk chair could be shaving years off your life. (Photo: Creative Commons: sunshinecity)

Many Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, and by doing so, may be decreasing their life expectancy by as many as two years, according to a new study, published in the journal BMJ Open. Previous studies have indicated that too much sitting is dangerous for your health, but this study is the first to put a quantitative measurement on just how bad it is.

"It's about the inactivity in your muscles," Peter Katzmarzyk, study author and professor of epidemiology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told Bloomberg News. "When you're sitting your legs are completely inactive."

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It's especially difficult for people who sit in an office, Katzmarzyk said, but there are ways to incorporate exercise into your day. Standing during meetings, walking to a coworker's desk instead of sending an email and getting up as often as possible can make a big difference."

'It's not just about getting physical activity in your life," Katzmarzyk  said. "Just because you're doing 30 minutes of physical activity, what about the other 23.5 hours? Don't just sit the rest of the day."

Reducing sitting time and cutting out TV could increase life expectancy by two years, according to the study. Sitting less would cut premature death by 27 percent, researchers said. Previous studies found that sitting increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease by as much as 20 percent.

Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, New York, told Bloomberg News that while the study looked at the general population, other factors such as smoking, diet and overall health also plays a role.

"I wouldn't bet I would die two years earlier because I sat in the office all day," she said.  However she did agree that people "need to take an activity break where we actually get up and walk around."

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