Too much sitting linked to an early death
The ease of our modern workday could come at the expense of our longevity. A study of older women in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that sitting for long stretches of time increases the odds of an untimely death.
The more hours women in the study spent sitting at work, driving, lying on the couch watching TV, or engaged in other leisurely pursuits, the greater their odds of dying early from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.
And here’s the kicker: Even women who exercised regularly risked shortening their lifespan if most of their daily hours were sedentary ones.
“Even if you are doing the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous exercise, you will still have a higher risk of mortality if you’re spending too many hours sitting,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, one of the study’s authors, and chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“Each of these behaviors is important and has an independent effect on cardiovascular disease and mortality.”
How exactly sitting contributes to reduced longevity isn’t clear, but there are a few possible mechanisms. “Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
When you sit, you expend fewer calories than you would while standing, and you demand little effort from your muscles. Sitting too much can also lead to other behaviors that contribute to obesity and heart disease. “Many times when people are sitting, what are they doing? They’re often watching TV and snacking,” says Dr. Manson.
Harvard Health Publishing