Study shows that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health, but it is easy to offset this effect


Sure, you’ve heard about the dangers of sitting all day, but in most jobs there isn’t much you can do about it, right?

Not according to a new study that looked at the effects of prolonged sitting.

Five minutes of light walking every half hour can help mitigate some of the increased risks that come with sitting for long periods of the day, according to the study, published Thursday in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The scientific community has known for decades that sitting can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer, said Keith Diaz, lead author of the study and assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. But until now there were no clear guidelines about how long you can sit and how often you should move.

“We’ve known for about a decade or so that sitting increases your risk of most chronic diseases and increases your risk of early death,” said Diaz, who is also director of the University’s Exercise Testing Laboratory. Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health. “Just like how much fruit and vegetables they should eat and how much exercise they should get, we need to give (people) specific guidance on how to combat the harms of sitting.”

Walking can be as light as 1.9 mph, Diaz said, which is slower than most people walk normally. The goal is just to break up the sitting with some movement.

Several health indicators were measured for different combinations of sitting and walking periods for this study. Matthew said that although the sample size was small, the study was rigorous with robust methodology Bowman, director of the Arizona State University College of Health Solutions. Bowman was not involved in the study.

Scientists don’t yet know why sitting is so bad, but a working theory is that muscles are important in regulating things like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. But when you sit for a long time, your muscles don’t have a chance to contract and work optimally, Diaz said.

Does five minutes every half hour still seem like a stretch? Even little “snacks” like taking a one-minute walk every hour were shown to lower study participants’ blood pressure “by a significant amount,” Diaz said.

All of the study participants were generally healthy adults, Bowman said, which means those with chronic illnesses may see a greater benefit.

Many workplaces require people to sit for long periods of the day, experts said, but it's important to find ways to exercise.

Even with clearer guidelines, commuting regularly can seem out of reach if the office culture doesn’t promote it.

“There are many of us who lead inactive or sedentary lifestyles or have sedentary jobs,” Diaz said. “There are these social norms where if you’re out of your office, people think you’re not working.”

Diaz works to convince employers of the importance of commuting during the workday—not just for one’s health, but also for the bottom line.

“Sitting is an occupational hazard, and a healthy employee is a more productive employee,” he said.

The team found that there were more than just physical health benefits for the participants who broke their squats. Diaz said they also found it reduces fatigue and improves mood.

“Just sitting at your desk and grinding for 8 hours might not actually be that great if you’re only concerned with the bottom line in terms of your work productivity,” he added.

And while standing desks are popular, they may not be the answer.

“I’m not sure there’s really strong scientific evidence that standing is really better than sitting,” Diaz said. “I’m afraid people have this false feeling that they’re healthy because they’re using this desk, and they may not actually be much better.”

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What Diaz really wants people to take away from research is that getting enough movement is achievable.

Moving does not necessarily mean leaving your office If it’s not in your workplace culture, said CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a mind-body coach for professional athletes.

The most recent research has looked only at the effectiveness of walking, but Santas said there are other ways to get your muscles moving regularly.

“You simply can Square squat exercise “By getting up, sitting gently, then turning right again and repeating that motion over and over again,” Santa said via email.

If you have the opportunity to get more space, Santas like to recommend a dance break.

“Since most songs average at least 3 minutes, you can dance from the negative impact of excessive sitting. And as a bonus — dancing to your favorite tunes will boost your mood, too!” she said.

For people with limited mobility or who use wheelchairs, there are still more accessible ways to split sitting times.

Santas said that everyone should reach out and move their hands in all directions. She added that anyone in a wheelchair can do stretches, side bends and twisting exercises from a chair.

“Even when you can’t move your lower body and actually do the sitting down actively Taking deep breaths using your diaphragm and moving your ribsuseful to you put Santas said.

“The overall message is to move in as many ways as possible based on your abilities,” Bowman said.

Diaz added that the action bar doesn’t have to be high. “To the extent that you can break up your sitting with some kind of movement breaks, you can still achieve some benefits,” he said.

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