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Why To Exercise Today: Because It's Not Sitting

This article is more than 7 years old.

If you're like me, this bout of November weather in June provides yet another excuse to ratchet back your exercise regime. And that means more sitting. Do not give in. Here, two more reports underscore the perils of sitting, one from the U.K. and one out of New York City.

In the U.K., sedentary behavior "now occupies around 60% of people's total waking hours in the general population, and over 70% in those with a high risk of chronic disease. For those working in offices, 65–75% of their working hours are spent sitting," according a new study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.


To try to get workers off their bums, public health experts issued a consensus statement urging periodic stand-up breaks during the day.

According to the panel backing the new recommendations:

...for those occupations which are predominantly desk-based, workers should aim to initially progress towards accumulating 2 hours a day of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 hours a day... To achieve this, seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks.

Along with other health promotion goals (improved nutrition, reducing alcohol, smoking and stress), companies should also promote among their staff that prolonged sitting, aggregated from work and in leisure time, may significantly and independently increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature mortality.

Even New Yorkers, who live in one of the best walking cities on the planet, are sitting far longer than what's considered healthy, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researchers at New York University, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Researchers found great differences among various demographics — surprisingly, higher income folks spent more time sitting compared to those with lower incomes.

Among the findings, detailed in a news release:

•At the lower economic end, individuals spent 6.3 hours per day sitting, while those with higher incomes spent 8.2 hours per day sitting

•College graduates spent 8.2 hours per day sitting, compared with 5.5 hours per day for those with less than a high school education

•Whites spent on average 7.8 hours per day sitting, African Americans spent 7.4 hours sitting, Hispanics spent 5.4 hours sitting, and Asian Americans spent 7.9 hours per day sitting

•Sitting time was highest in Manhattan, compared to other boroughs...

Sitting time is linked to death from heart disease and other causes, with life expectancy increasing by two years if adults reduced their sitting time to three hours per day. Individuals who exercise regularly but are still sedentary for several hours a day may be at greater risk for adverse health outcomes than their physical activity levels might suggest.

We've written frequently about the bad health outcomes of sitting. And while sitting may not quite be the new smoking, as some suggest, it's worth recalling the wisdom of Dr. Eddie Phillips, director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine in Boston, who says that sitting is a "disease state."

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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