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Sitting Just Three Hours a Day Can Take Two Years Off Your Life

Sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave a person's life expectancy by two years, even if he or she is physically active and refrains from dangerous habits like smoking.

Photo: whalt

You better sit down for this. The Wall Street Journal‘s Andrew Seidman reports:

Sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave a person’s life expectancy by two years, even if he or she is physically active and refrains from dangerous habits like smoking,

This isn’t the first link found between illness and having a so-called “sedentary lifestyle,” but the concept is still a novel one.  This new study is part of the first wave of investigations to put numbers on the effect of excessive sitting: a 2011 study showed that it increases the risk of dying from heart disease and one published in March found that people who sit for 11 or more hours a day had greater risk of dying, period, than people who sat for fewer than 4 hours.

The intriguing part of this body of research is that the effect of sitting on life expectancy is divorced from the amount of physical activity a person gets. It’s not just that you’re not exercising; it’s the sitting itself that is the problem.

Travis Saunders, a PhD student whose research focuses on sedentary living, explains,

In the past, referring to someone as sedentary meant they did not meet physical activity guidelines. In this new context, a sedentary lifestyle is one that is characterized by high levels of sedentary behaviour, irrespective of an individual’s level of moderate or vigorous physical activity.

So what can be done? Seidman reports,

“Try to stand as much as you can,” Dr. Katzmarzyk said. “Typically when you’re on the telephone you can stand with speaker phone. Instead of emailing someone in the office, just get up and go talk to them.

 

More from Smithsonian.com:

Everybody Take A Seat

Are Americans Stuck to their Cubicles?

 

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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