Sitting for long as bad for health as smoking

'Sitting disease' may increase the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published:March 2, 2012 3:43 pm

Sitting for long hours may increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease,say researchers.

A doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,Minn.,calls it the “sitting disease,” likening the ill effects of inactivity which doctors are still discovering,to the discovery of the side effects of smoking.

Dr James Levine helped initiate a new study at a small company in Minneapolis. “Work-fit” stations replaced 30 desks,so employees can now sit or stand while working,media reports said.

Levine for many years has been walking on a treadmill while he works. The study,and a handful of similar studies world wide,are ongoing.

“Researchers have linked sitting for prolonged periods with a number of health problems and premature death from cardiovascular disease,” Levine said.

“In one study,adults who spent more than four hours a day sitting in front of the television had an 80 per cent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV. This risk was independent of other risk factors such as smoking or diet,” he cited.

The solution,Levine said,is not extra gym time,which doesn’t seem to offset the risk.

“Rather,the solution seems to be less sitting and more movement,” he said.

“Simply by standing,you burn three times as many calories as you do sitting. Muscle contractions,including the ones required for standing,seem to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars. When you sit down,muscle contractions cease and these processes stall,” he explained.

Another new study published in Medicine and Science in Sports ‘n’ Exercise showed that blood sugar tends to spike more with low activity levels.

Researchers at the University of Missouri asked people who usually exercise to spend three days in a sedentary lifestyle. Although they ate the same foods,their blood sugar spiked after meals,increasing by about 26 per cent compared to their blood sugar levels when they exercised.

“You don’t have to run marathons. But the evidence is clear that you do need to move,” John P. Thyfault,an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri said.

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