Do This Every Half Hour for a Longer Life

Doing this in excess hurts your health—and you’re not in the clear just because you exercise.

Do This Every Half Hour for a Longer Life

We all know that smoking, poor diet and lack of sleep can be detrimental to our health, but did you know sitting can seriously hurt your health, too? Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and, according to a recent study, even mortality.

In one study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers reviewed the patterns of sedentary behavior and its effects on middle-aged adults in the US. The study examined 7,985 adults over the age of 45. They were told to wear accelerometers, or electromechanical devices used to measure movements and vibrations for the course of a week.

Of the 16 hours participants were awake, researchers found that they were sitting for about 12.3 hours. Overall, participants who sat for the longest time were more likely to be older, smokers, African American and non-drinkers. They were also more likely to have a higher body mass index and were less likely to get exercise. Those who sat longer were also more likely to have problems from high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation or coronary heart disease.

After the four-year study, researchers found that participants who spent most of their day sitting were more likely to have died than those who sat less throughout the day. Additionally, those who got up from their seat more frequently throughout the day had lower risks of mortality than those who sat for an extended amount of time. Researchers are still examining why sedentary time can cause mortality, but they believe poor blood glucose control and blood vessel damage might be to blame. Keith Diaz, PhD, lead investigator of the study, explained that excessive sitting can increase blood sugar level in the body, leading to diabetes.

You may think you’re in the clear if you exercise for an hour each day, but research says otherwise. Excess sitting, even if you’re an avid gym-goer, can be harmful to your health. Recent studies suggest standing throughout the day may actually be as important as your exercise regime. Findings also recommend taking a break from sitting at least once every half hour to counter the health risks from long bouts of sitting. Take five minutes away from your desk to walk a few laps around the office, refill your water bottle or simply stretch your legs.

Want more ways to get moving? Try these 10 easy ways to stand up to sitting disease.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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