New research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that people who spend a lot of time sitting may be up to 40% more likely to die from any cause.
The study tracked 222,497 Australian adults for about three years. During that time, there was an association noted between the risk of dying and how much time the Aussies spent sitting.
Compared to people who spent less than four hours per day sitting, the odds of dying were:
• 15% higher for people who sat for at least eight hours
• 40% higher for people who sat for 11 or more hours a day
These “risk of dying studies” kill me. I have posted on my “who cares” attitude about this approach to epidemiological analysis. While I can see that this metric has a role to play in the overall analysis, its significance should be considered in proper perspective.
I am more concerned with one’s quality of life now. If I tell you that eating a live, nasty-tasting beetle everyday may increase your odds of living an extra year or two, most of you would say, “I’ll take my chances, and spare the beetle.” We need to inform people about the benefits of certain healthy behaviors on their current state of life and living, not some event in distant years. I understand why researchers use mortality as an end-point, but that end-point just isn’t going to sell the message of their research as well as combining the mortality data with a more tangible benefit in the here and now.
As a podiatrist foot specialist responsible for the care of our movement-producing feet, I see the emotional and physical illness associated with immobility on a daily basis. It is not necessarily the stark definitive outcome of death in which sitting does harm, but in the small cumulative effects that it has on your metabolism, as well as your overall sense of well-being on a day by day basis. Sitters are not only likely to die younger, but I would venture to say that their health-related quality of life is at a lower level right here right now.
I have written in the past about taking a walking break around the office occasionally to break up sitting time. This simple movement has a positive impact on your metabolism. It has been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels helping you to stop prediabetes.
“Not sitting too much” does not mean that you have to go beat yourself up spending an hour on the treadmill doing exhaustive endurance exercise, but you do need to move. There is a difference between movement and “exercise” as we commonly use this word. I prefer exercise-movement – find something that you like to do that involves movement, preferably outdoors, and this can serve as your “exercise.” You should also try to do at least some amount of formal resistance type exercise-movements regularly as well.