Is Sitting Really Going to Kill Us?

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Sitting for long periods of time may increase your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. So get moving. (Photo: Getty Images)

Of course, we know that exercise is good for us. But over the past several years, researchers have begun to learn that even hitting the gym regularly may not protect us from the potentially independent and negative effects of sitting on our overall health. According to a new statement published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, sedentary time alone may increase your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” says Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in the new statement.

This warning comes on the heels of a flood of research over the past decade suggesting that sitting for long periods of time is actually harming our overall health. For instance, according to a 2015 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 45 minutes per day of exercise won’t be enough to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. A 2015 BMJ study similarly concluded links between sitting and heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

A JAMA Cardiology study of more than 700,000 subjects showed that 10-plus hours of sitting each day can boost risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues by 8 percent — but this increase was seen only after hours and hours of sitting. Other research out of the University of Exeter and University College London seems to counter damaging claims about sitting, showing that more hours on your tush was not associated with a higher risk of dying.

So what’s the deal with sitting? And how worried should we be? According to Johanna Contreras, M.D., an assistant professor of cardiology at the Mount Sinai Hospital, we should not forget that the heart is a muscle. “Like any muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “You need to exercise it. If you’re sitting around all day, it causes the blood vessels not to work well, they don’t pump blood and they don’t circulate oxygen.”

In other words, one bout of exercise isn’t enough to keep this vital organ working at its peak. Remaining sedentary throughout the day affects every part of the body that gets blood (read: all of ‘em!). Therefore, sitting is a big concern to doctors and researchers, says Contreras, who tells all of her patients they should be up and moving multiple times during the day — especially those who have desk jobs.

Contreras says that those who have risk factors for heart disease should be especially concerned with movement throughout the day. “I tell patients to get up and move three times — take a break from your work and go for a walk,” she says. “Those who have high blood pressure, diabetes are at heightened risk, so they need to move more frequently; 20- to 25-minute breaks for movement are best.”

Bottom line? Yes, you should try to sit less and move more. Shake out those legs whenever you can, as often as you can.

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