July 22nd, 2010
04:38 PM ET

Sitting, even after workout, can cut lifespan

A new study debunks the theory that an hour of exercise a day is all you need to live a long life. Turns out, people who spend more time sitting during their leisure time have an increased risk of death, regardless of daily exercise.

American Cancer Society researchers tracked the activity levels and death rates in more than 123,000 healthy men and women for 13 years. They found women who spend over six hours a day sitting during leisure time (watching TV, playing games, surfing the web, reading) were 40 percent more likely to die sooner than women who spend less than three hours sitting. Men who spend more time sitting have a 20 percent increased risk of death. Essentially, those who sit less, live a longer life than those who don't.

Several factors come into play when figuring out “why” sitting may take years off your life.

The first may seem like common sense. The more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to passively eat snacks or consume high calories drinks resulting in unhealthy weight gain. But this isn’t always the case. Sedentary obese and normal weight Americans had similar increased risk of death in the study.

Prolonged time sitting suppresses your immune system, which may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. And your blood isn’t circulating as it should when you’re sedentary for long periods of time. When blood doesn’t flow thru your veins up to your heart, it could lead to dangerous blood clot. It also has metabolic consequences – increasing your resting blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Researchers say the metabolic effect may explain why the association was strongest for cardiovascular disease mortality in the study.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemology suggests, “public health guidelines should be refined to include reducing time spent sitting in addition to promoting physical activity.”

So as you keep your brain stimulated with your smart phones, video games and gadgets, wireless apps and paperless books – walk around or stand up while playing your favorite game. You may add years to your life.

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