Don t just sit there stand up!

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Just as all of us here at ACSH were taking our regular seats at today s morning meeting, we became aware of two new studies on the dangers of sitting which made us all consider resuming the meeting in a slightly different way standing.

The research, published in two medical journals this month, has added to a growing scientific consensus that the more time one spends sitting, the shorter and less healthy his or her life may be even if they exercise regularly.

For the first study, researchers examined data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study a large, continuing survey of the health habits of 12,000 Australian adults. In addition to questions concerning general health, disease status, exercise, smoking, etc., the survey also asked respondents to estimate the hours per day they spent sitting watching television (a surrogate for sitting still).

After adjusting for smoking, waist circumference, dietary quality, exercise habits and other variables, the scientists were next able to isolate specifically the effect that the hours of sitting seemed to be having on people s life spans. Their findings, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, were sobering indeed. Researchers concluded that for every hour of television watched after the age of 25 the viewer s life expectancy would decrease by 21.8 minutes. Ultimately, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to have their lives shortened by about 4.8 years, compared to a person who does not watch TV. What is even more sobering is that even for people who exercise regularly, the results hold true.

The second study, published Monday in the journal Diabetologia, measured full-day sitting time, covering not only hours in front of the television, but also time spent in a chair at work. Researchers reviewed data from 18 studies involving almost 800,000 people. They then cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes, and found that those people who sat the most had about double their relative risk of developing diabetes; a one-and-a-half fold increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely even if they regularly exercised.

When Dr. Emma Wilmot, a research fellow at the University of Leicester in England who led the study, asked a group of volunteers recently to reduce their daily sitting time by an hour, they came up with lots of ideas, she reported, including putting the garbage bin on the other side of the office, standing during coffee breaks and telephone calls, having standing meetings, standing on the bus.

While the importance of exercise for overall health is a no-brainer, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, we all need to try these minor adjustments to keep ourselves active during the day.