Sit­ting down for hours on end linked to early death

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY LAURA KELLY

If you’re sit­ting down, you might want to stand up while read­ing this.

Build­ing on a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence about the dan­gers of the mod­ern se­den­tary work­place and life­style, a team of re­searchers has found that long pe­ri­ods of un­in­ter­rupted sit­ting can lead to ear­lier death — re­gard­less of how much a per­son ex­er­cises and even when ac­count­ing for age, gen­der and other fac­tors. The sur­vey, con­sid­ered one of the largest of its kind, was pub­lished Mon­day in a schol­arly med­i­cal jour­nal.

Dr. Keith Diaz, the lead au­thor of the study and the di­rec­tor of the Ex­er­cise Test­ing Lab­o­ra­tory at Columbia Univer­sity, said the most sur­pris­ing find­ings were that it wasn’t just the to­tal num­ber of hours of sit­ting ac­cu­mu­lated over the day, but that un­in­ter­rupted sit­ting over long pe­ri­ods such as 60 to 90 min­utes in­creased the risk for early death.

“This find­ing I think will help shift our un­der­stand­ing about the risks of sit­ting by show­ing that to re­duce the harm­ful con­se­quences of sit­ting one needs to both de­crease the over­all time they spend sit­ting and take fre­quent move­ment breaks when they do sit,” Dr. Diaz told The Washington Times in an email.

The study was pub­lished in the An­nals of In­ter­nal Medicine and fol­lowed a na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive pop­u­la­tion of 8,000 in­di­vid­u­als older than 45 for an av­er­age of four years.

The re­searchers em­ployed the use of hip-mounted ac­celerom­e­ters to mon­i­tor how long peo­ple sat and their move­ment. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies eval­u­at­ing se­den­tary time and health had par­tic­i­pants self-re­port their sit­ting and move­ment pe­ri­ods.

The re­searchers recorded 340 deaths over the course of the four-year fol­low-up. When ad­just­ing for mul­ti­ple vari­ables — such as age, race and sex — the re­searchers found that to­tal num­ber of sit­ting hours over the day and the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of most of one’s sit­ting time in long, un­in­ter­rupted pe­ri­ods were associated with early death.

Even when par­tic­i­pants in­cor­po­rated ex­er­cise into their rou­tine, “all-cause mor­tal­ity” was higher if par­tic­i­pants fre­quently sat for more than 60 to 90 con­sec­u­tive min­utes at a time.

“We think this gives a clear mes­sage that be­sides ex­er­cis­ing, you also should be mind­ful of mov­ing (and not be­ing se­den­tary) through­out the day,” Dr. Diaz said.

The par­tic­i­pants recorded an av­er­age 12.3 hours of se­den­tary time in a 16-hour wak­ing day. To com­bat ad­verse ef­fects, the re­searchers rec­om­mend tak­ing move­ment breaks ev­ery 30 min­utes through­out the day and said in­ter­ven­tions should tar­get this goal.

“Both the to­tal vol­ume of se­den­tary time and its ac­crual in pro­longed, un­in­ter­rupted bouts are associated with all-cause mor­tal­ity, sug­ges­tive that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity guide­lines should tar­get re­duc­ing and in­ter­rupt­ing se­den­tary time to re­duce risk for death,” the au­thors wrote in their con­clu­sion.

The sci­ence is mixed on in­ter­ven­tion tech­niques. Dr. Diaz pointed out that a study led by Johns Hop­kins re­searchers that was pub­lished last month found that oc­cu­pa­tional stand­ing — jobs such as re­tail sales, res­tau­rant cooks, res­tau­rant servers and fac­tory ma­chine op­er­a­tors — was associated with higher risks of heart disease and over­all lower car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.

Con­versely, while jobs that in­volved com­bi­na­tions of sit­ting, stand­ing and walk­ing re­sulted in lower car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk for men, there were el­e­vated risks among women, the Johns Hop­kins re­searchers con­cluded.

Dr. Diaz sug­gests that em­ploy­ers en­cour­age breaks ev­ery 30 or 60 min­utes to stand up or walk around, but he ac­knowl­edges that it could be a dif­fi­cult sell.

“Nat­u­rally, em­ploy­ers prob­a­bly would be ap­pre­hen­sive to do so over con­cerns of work pro­duc­tiv­ity. So in the end, it may come down to em­ployee well­ness ver­sus work pro­duc­tiv­ity for em­ploy­ers — al­though there cer­tainly could be some mid­dle ground,” he said.

Uses of tread­mill desks, cy­cling desks, and ex­er­cise balls in­stead of chairs are in­ter­ven­tion tech­niques that haven’t been thor­oughly eval­u­ated for ef­fec­tive­ness. A 2014 study pub­lished in the jour­nal Sports Medicine con­cluded that ac­tive work­sta­tions could con­trib­ute to over­all health, but the ef­fects on work pro­duc­tiv­ity were un­known.

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