Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Increasing evidence that sitting makes you sick

Author:

Back pain. Organ damage. Muscle degeneration. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Early death.

It turns out that sitting all day is worse than previously thought. These are just some of the health conditions researchers associate with a sedentary lifestyle.

And now, researchers have found, that's true even if you get regular exercise.

A new study from Northwestern University found that the picture is even more alarming for people age 60 and older.

For this group, each additional hour per day spent sitting increases the risk of becoming physically disabled by about 50 percent.

The finding comes from an analysis of data from the 2003-2005 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which recorded the health, socioeconomic status and access to medical care of 2,286 adults ages 60 and older.

“This is the first time we’ve shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise,” said Dorothy Dunlop, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Being sedentary is not just a synonym for inadequate physical activity.”

Dunlop told NPR News that $1 of every $4 spent on medical care is related to disability problems.

In the study, participants wore accelerometers around their waists to measure their physical activity. On average, the study found, people spent most of their waking hours being sedentary.

The Washington Post notes another study that found people who watched the most TV in an 8.5-year study had a 61 percent greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour of TV per day.

So, why doesn't regular vigorous exercise counteract the damage that comes from sitting?

Physiologist Marc Hamilton from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. told NPR News it's because muscles need constant activity.

"It takes a long duration of using your muscles throughout the whole day," Hamilton said.

Harvard Medical School recommends some ways to wean yourself off your chair during the workday: switch to a standing desk, or one that can adjust to sitting and standing positions. Or the school recommends, set your smartphone timer to go off every 30 to 60 minutes during the day. When the alarm rings, “Stretch and move around the office to avoid any prolonged sitting at one time,” Dr. Manson recommends.

And there could be even more benefits to getting away from your work desk, too.

Research from the University of Minnesota found that exercising while working could also boost productivity. 

The study, published by the online research publication PLOS ONE, found that both overall employee productivity and health improved when employees worked at a treadmill desk instead of sitting.

The study found treadmill workers also burned 7 to 8 percent more calories per day than before the study began and there was nearly a point increase in productivity – based on a 10-point scale – after participants got used to walking while working.

Next Up

940 Margaret St, St Paul, MN 55106, United States - May 2019 (1)

4-year-old girl struck by hit-and-run driver in St. Paul

The girl was struck by the driver around 5 p.m. Monday.

Minneapolis police

Baby found safe inside car that was stolen in south Minneapolis

The incident happened near 32nd Street and Chicago Avenue around 7 p.m.

Anthony Edwards

Ant puts on a show to help Timberwolves beat Pacers

A third-quarter surge gave the Timberwolves their seventh win in their past eight games.

Mikko Koivu

Wild to retire Mikko Koivu's No. 9 jersey

Koivu will be the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.

Boebert-Omar - Flickr Gage Skidmore

Rep. Boebert refuses to apologize for Islamophobic comment toward Rep. Omar

A phone call Monday between the two lawmakers ended abruptly.

Patrick Peterson

Vikings place Patrick Peterson on COVID-19/reserve list

The Vikings cornerback said he was vaccinated in August.

flickr - thin ice warning - USFWS Midwest

'Numerous' reports of eager anglers falling through ice

Conditions are still unpredictable, and can vary even across a single body of water.

covid

Minnesota health officials watching closely for omicron variant

Health leaders do not yet know how transmissible or severe the new variant is.

school bus stop pixabay

School bus driver charged in fatal hit-and-run will plead guilty

Another motorist told the driver to call 911, but he instead got on the bus and drove off, charges say.

Franconia Sculpture Park - Lorie Shaull - Flickr

5 outdoor destinations to explore around the Twin Cities

There's something for everyone on this list of overlooked spots.

Child mental health counseling

As pandemic continues, so do efforts to improve child mental health access

Children's Minnesota has announced it will open its first inpatient mental health facility for under 18s.

Dalvin Cook

Mixed reports on Dalvin Cook's injury status

The Vikings running back could miss two games...or he could play Sunday.

Related