Here’s news you shouldn’t take sitting down: The more time you spend sitting each day, the greater your risk of heart disease.
A new study suggests that people who sit for 10 or more hours a day are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who sit five or fewer hours each day.
Those who sat for 10 or more hours a day had an 18 percent higher risk than those who sat for five hours or less, regardless of their level of physical activity. But exercise made a big difference. The least active women in the study who sat at least 10 hours a day had a 63 percent higher risk than active women who sat five or fewer hours a day.
The findings come from a 12-year study of postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). Although there were no men or young women in the study, “there is no reason to believe that prolonged sitting would not increase risk in all adults. Previous studies in other populations support this,” says Andrea K. Chomistek, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Chomistek is first author of the multicenter study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
CUT YOUR SITTING RISK
None of these studies was able to measure the exact cardiovascular benefits of sitting less. But an earlier WHI report suggested that women can lessen harm to their hearts from sitting by increasing their physical activity. That finding should apply to men, as well.
The message from this line of research is that activity trumps sitting. That doesn’t mean you have to spend several hours a day exercising. Just taking breaks from sitting – by standing up and pacing or taking a short walk – might also lower sitting-associated heart risk. The more standing and walking you do, the better.
SITTING, HEART DISEASE
Although the WHI study included only women, other studies have explored the link between sitting and heart disease in men and mixed groups, with the same general results.
Earlier this year, a study of more than 63,000 Australian men found that those who sat four or more hours a day were more likely to have developed heart disease, diabetes, or another chronic disease than those who sat less than four hours a day, regardless of how active they were.
And a Canadian study of men and women found that those who sat for most of the day were 54 percent more likely to die over the next 11 years than those who sat less than half the time. This study, too, found that too much sitting can be harmful even for those who exercise regularly.
1. Watch less television: Replace TV time with fun activities that get you moving.
2. Set a one-hour timer when you sit down to relax: Get up and move around for at least 10 minutes when it goes off.
3. Consider working at a stand-up desk: Better still, get a treadmill desk. Or try working while standing at the kitchen counter.
4. Take at least two walks a day: A new study from the George Washington University Medical Center suggests that brief walks after meals are better for keeping blood sugar in check than one longer walk each day.
5. Start a walking group: You will be more active, and you will also socialize, which is good for your mental health.
6. If you’ve been thinking about a pet, get a dog: And walk it, or volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog.