Does Sitting Too Much Affect Your Heart Health?
There is a new area of science looking specifically at the harms of physical inactivity or sedentary behavior, which is not necessarily the inverse of benefits of physical activity, according to Nina Radford, MD, Cardiologist and Director of Clinical Research at Cooper Clinic.
Most of the data suggests that if you spend too much time sitting, you’re more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The more time you spend sitting, the more weight you gain, the more your waist circumference increases, your blood sugar rises and cholesterol profile worsens.
Improve Your Heart Health
There are several conventional recommendations to people who sit long periods of time each day. Some of these suggestions include:
- Get up once an hour and take a walk.
- Stand while on the phone or opening mail.
- Rather than emailing a colleague who works down the hall, walk down the hall to speak to them instead.
- At lunch, take some time to walk around your building or around the block.
While these suggestions can’t hurt, there’s a bigger picture we have to look at, says Dr. Radford. Being sedentary isn’t only about sitting at your desk at work. It’s a sedentary lifestyle that is truly dangerous. People who are sedentary get less moderate physical activity and may have worse diet patterns.
New research shows that someone who is physically fit and makes regular exercise a priority, but who has a desk job, has fewer risk factors for heart disease than someone who has a desk job and is not physically fit.
“There is a new idea that if you sit at your desk all day, going to the gym at night won’t help, but that is not necessarily the case,” says Dr. Radford.
Researchers at The Cooper Institute have found that the adverse effects of time spent sitting are less pronounced the more fit you are.
“The notion that you can’t undo the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle by exercising every day is a bad public health message and the data doesn’t convincingly demonstrate that,” says Dr. Radford
So what does Dr. Radford recommend? Be generally active and get an annual physcial exam. Make it a priority to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. If you do have to sit long periods of time, get up and move around as much as possible, but the real emphasis is on living an otherwise active lifestyle.