OK, Couch Potatoes! Study on Health and Mortality Questions – How Long Can We Afford to Sit Each Day?

This post was authored by Rodd Santomauro and posted to The Eye Opener on July 29th, 2010.

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Have you ever added up the total amount of time that you sit everyday?  In the car, on the bus, on the train, in the office, on the couch..the list goes on and on.  Now, new information, published by The American Journal of Epidemiology, brings to the surface some enlightening and scary statistics of what happens when we “sit for too long.”

This information has saturated the internet over this past weekend.  One of many places where this information is summarized is on the MedlinePlus website.  Within the article, the statistics regarding the risks to women versus men are clearly defined:

The authors of the study analyzed responses from questionnaires filled out by 123,216 people (53,440 men and 69,776 women) with no history of disease who were participating in the Cancer Prevention II study conducted by the American Cancer Society.

Participants were followed for 14 years, from 1993 to 2006.

In the study, people were more likely to die of heart disease than cancer. After adjusting for a number of risk factors, including body mass index (BMI) and smoking, women who spent six hours a day sitting had a 37 percent increased risk of dying versus those who spent less than three hours a day on their bottoms. For men the increased risk was 17 percent.

Exercise, even a little per day, did tend to lower the mortality risk tied to sitting, the team noted. However, sitting’s influence on death risk remained significant even when activity was factored in.

On the other hand, people who sat a lot and did not exercise or stay active had an even higher mortality risk: 94 percent for women and 48 percent for men.

Exercise is important.  OK – we knew that, but what about the report that sitting’s influence on death risk remained significant even when activity was factored in? How is that problem addressed and solved?

The answer to that question is not clear.  What is clear is the relationship between a lack of activity and obesity, as well as other factors.  These biological factors are known as “inactivity physiology”.  Study lead author Dr. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, states the following:

There’s a burgeoning literature evolving around “inactivity physiology.”  When muscles, especially those in the legs, are “sitting,” they stimulate or suppress various hormones which then affect triglycerides, cholesterol and other markers for heart and other diseases.

This newly-released information is sure to spark debate and concern for some time to come.  The question remains “How long can we afford to sit each day?”  I don’t know the answer, but I think I will stand up now and walk around awhile…

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