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Is Sitting a Death Sentence?

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If you think your once-a-day training session counteracts the hours you spend sitting, think again. Leading a sedentary lifestyle—even if you exercise regularly—could do a number on your health, according to an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The Swedish scientists warned that after four hours of sitting, the genes that regulate glucose and fat begin to shut down. This lack of movement has been associated with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.

So why doesn’t exercise help? While working out improves overall fitness, studies have shown that how long you spend sitting may impact your health more than whether or not you hit the gym.

Canadian researchers found that people who sat more had an increased risk of death (independent of whether or not they exercised), while a 2010 Australian study showed that for every hour spent sitting in front of a TV, the risk of death from heart disease increases 18 percent, even for people who exercised.

The take-home advice: Keep up with your daily gym sessions, but make an effort to get up and be active periodically throughout the day to minimize long periods of sitting. Make these tips habit to get more movement in your day:

  • Get a pedometer. You may think you’re walking more than you really are. Wear a pedometer to get an idea of how active you are outside of the gym.
  • Make your gym time count. Kicking your workout into a higher gear will burn more calories throughout the day and train your most important muscle (your heart) more effectively.
  • Give your desk a makeover. If you have a desk job, see if your company can elevate your workstation so that you can stand. Or sit on a stability ball for part of the day (it requires balance to stay seated, so your muscles will be working to keep you steady.
  • Set reminders. It’s easy to get lost in your pile of paperwork for hours. Place a Post-It Note on your desk that says “take a walk” or reset your computer’s reminder system to give you daily pop-up messages as a reminder to “stand up” or “take a break.
  • Use phone calls to your advantage. While it makes sense to sit while typing, you can stand while talking on the phone. So stand up during conference calls and chats with friends.

For more tips, read author Joe Kita’s 5-part series on getting active.

Tags: Health, Work