Over the past few years, scientists have discovered more and more evidence showing that sitting down too much has the potential to result in significant health problems, even increasing mortality risk.
Unfortunately, many people are not only sitting in their leisure time, but they’re also sitting down at work for long periods. In fact, a previous study discovered that 25% of those surveyed in the United States sit for over eight hours each day. Even more shocking, just 3% of the respondents said they sat fewer than four hours a day and stayed active.
A recent study, recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, investigated postmenopausal women who were 55 years of age or older and their lack of activity. All women were either overweight or diagnosed with obesity. Researchers discovered that the women who sat for long periods each day had a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Older women are already at risk for heart disease, but sitting increases that risk
Statistics show that one out of three women dies from heart disease, and after going through menopause women have a much higher risk for cardiometabolic disease, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Researchers wanted to understand how other behaviors can impact this risk in women, particularly with mounting evidence that shows the link between prolonged sitting and heart disease and increased mortality risks.
Among postmenopausal women with either overweight or obesity, researchers believed that being seated for too long would likely increase cardiometabolic risks even more. During the study, participating women wore devices that tracked physical activity and sitting over two weeks, and they underwent blood tests to measure insulin resistance and blood sugar.
Researchers discovered links between prolonged sitting and larger waist measurements and higher body mass index (BMI), as well as insulin resistance, higher fasting blood sugars, and higher triglycerides – all of which increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Even researchers were surprised to discover that each extra hour of sitting each day resulted in an over 7% increase in insulin resistance. And even when levels of exercise were increased, the significance of these links changed little.
The evidence showed that prolonged sitting is a heart disease risk, even if individuals are exercising. While it’s important to encourage exercise, it’s essential to reducing total daily sitting time and uninterrupted sitting to lower the risk of heart disease.
Avoid the health dangers of a sedentary lifestyle: 4 simple action steps
Other studies have suggested that replacing some of that sitting time with light activity or simply standing may promote improved health, particularly on older individuals. And even if you have a desk job or you’ve been guilty of sitting too much in your downtime, there are easy ways to get more daily activity and reduce sitting to combat the health dangers of prolonged sitting.
Easy changes you can make include:
- At work, set an alarm for every half an hour. Get up and move around the office or do some stretching to break up your extended periods of sitting.
- Drink plenty of water. Not only is staying hydrated important but drinking water regularly will ensure you have to get up frequently.
- Stand up during commercials. If you’re watching television, get up during every commercial. Walk around or do some squats, stretching, or other easy movements before you sit back down to enjoy your show.
- Walk while you talk. If you’re on the phone, walk around or at least stand for the call.
Don’t forget, even if you’re hitting the gym regularly, sitting too much can still negatively impacts your health and can increase your risk of heart disease and early death. So don’t just focus on more activity – make sure you’re taking measures to reduce your time spent sitting.