A recent study conducted by an associate research scientist at Columbia has found that prolonged sitting destroys your health. Sitting for long periods is associated with early death – upsetting news for the millions of Americans who spend extensive time sitting as they work and as they relax after work. Even regular exercise failed to significantly reduce the risks associated with prolonged sitting.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize the time you spend sitting. Experts recommend taking a movement break every 30 minutes to protect your health.
The study used hip-mounted accelerometers to measure how much time study participants – nearly 8,000 individuals – spent in sedentary positions. Over four years researchers tracked participants and recorded the number of deaths among participants. The study found that increased sedentary time leads to an increased risk of death from any cause. The risk of death went up regardless of how old the participants were or how often they exercised.
The study found that participants who sat less than 30 minutes had a 55% lower risk of death in comparison to participants who sat for longer periods of time.
Why Does Sitting Destroy Your Health?
Finding out that sitting for extended periods so greatly increases your risk of death is startling for many people. The next question is, “Why?” Unfortunately, the exact reasons are far from clear. The study was not meant to uncover the reasons why, so there is limited information to explain what occurs in the body to increase the risk of death. It will take further studies to provide an answer.
Ways to Protect Your Health
Although the exact reasons why sitting increases the risk of mortality are not yet clear, the recommendation to take a break from sitting every 30 minutes does offer an actionable step to protect your health. There are several other ways you can limit your sitting, including:
There are a number of different desks designed to be used from a standing position, including stationary standing desks and sit to stand desks – both manually operated and motorized. Standing desks allow you to work exactly as you would at a sitting desk, only while standing. They take some getting used to, but most people who try them out find that they are an easy way to minimize time spent sitting.
When you purchase a standing or sit to stand desk, it may take some time to build up your stamina to use the desk for extended periods of time. Try standing for short periods, then sitting, then standing again to avoid excessive fatigue.
A number of apps are available to help you track your activity and make gradual lifestyle adjustments to increase your activity levels. Apple’s Health app includes an Activity monitor and coach that collects data from your iPhone, Apple Watch and third-party apps to let you know how much you are moving and to remind you to move more. You can set reminders on your app to tell you to move – such as every 30 minutes – as a way to ensure you avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time.
The simplest way to avoid sitting for more than 30 minutes is to set a timer on your phone or use a separate timer, to go off after 30 minutes of sitting. Once the timer goes off, engage in brisk walking or some other activity to get your heart rate up for five minutes. Then you can go back to sitting – after you set your timer again.
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