Does Sitting Time Decrease Your Lifespan (Even If You Exercise)?

by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.

The greater amount of time that you give to sitting on your bum can land two significant things right on your lap. And neither of them is encouraging.

One is impaired health and the other is a decrease in your lifespan. Yes, this applies even if you are fit and exercise regularly. Sorry.

I know that isn’t very supportive news in the least bit; however, this is what’s in the “sitting” science that is being revealed more and more these days. The good news is that same level of science also offers us a remedy to getting healthier and living longer.

It turns out that getting up on two feet (i.e. standing) could be a good approach to better health and longevity!

You’re about to see how that act of standing, at the very least, can offer protection for your DNA and keep you young.

Let’s first cover the basics of what the act of sitting over time does to your body and then we’ll go into how you can help yourself recover and renew towards a better version of yourself.

How does sitting time impair health?

Sitting for continued periods of time causes your body and its systems to slow down or actually shut down at a metabolic level, says Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., professor and director of the inactivity physiology department at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

When you don’t use your body parts, they become weak.

Sara Rosenkranz, an assistant professor at Kansas State University, studied the data of nearly 200,000 participants in The 45 and Up Study and said it best:

We’re basically telling our bodies to shut down the processes that help to stimulate metabolism throughout the day and that is not good… just by breaking up your sedentary time, we can actually up-regulate that process in the body.

We are designed to move

Dr. Hamilton goes on to point out that our bodies are designed to move, so when we don’t move this increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, and mortality.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Have you experienced the physical effects of too much sitting for yourself? Maybe just feeling groggy and sluggish or even tightness in your joints and low back or ‘mushy’ abs?

Maybe you can relate to this.

Click here to get an excellent PDF download that details a chain of problems encountered from too much sitting time and also shows you both the wrong way and the right way to sit.

Sitting time increases the risk of cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research associates extended sitting time with an increased risk of both breast and colon cancers, even among people who exercise daily!

Christine Friedenreich, PhD, of Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Canada, presented findings of the protective connection between physical activity and cancers. In the Alberta Physical Activity and Breast Cancer trial, Friedenreich and team concluded that exercise can be an option for breast cancer prevention.

That trial looked at the C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation and linked to cancer risk. It showed that moderate to vigorous daily activity reduced C-reactive protein levels among post-menopausal women.

Even though it is unclear at the moment of exactly how inflammation increases the risk of cancer, we do know that inflammation produces chemicals called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which stimulate cell reproduction whilst suppressing cell death. These chemicals do contribute to cancer risk.

Prolonged sitting time merely increases that cancer risk. Evidence even suggests that these key indicators of cancer risk are lowered when that prolonged sitting is interrupted with brief (1-2 minute) breaks.

In those brief two-minute breaks: do anything but sit. Get up, be impromptu, and get imaginative. Just standing is good enough as you’ll see shortly!

The good news: sitting less can reverse ageing

In one of our recent articles we talked about telomeres and how stress can prematurely age you by affecting them. Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes (DNA molecules) that affect how quickly your cells age. They are sort of like the plastic at the end of shoelaces, keeping the end of chromosomes tied.

Telomeres, which guard our chromosomes from disintegration, shorten with age.

Shorter telomeres are associated with an increased risk of disease and a shorter lifespan.

But here’s the good news:

An encouraging new study published in the British Medical Journal shows us that less sitting time actually lengthens telomeres, in a sense delaying ageing on a cellular level.

Restricting the amount of time you sit might actually lengthen those telomeres. This alone can give an enormous boost to your health and longevity.

Longer telomeres equate to a lower risk of developing a wide variety of conditions, better health, and more youth.

What else can help lengthen your telomeres?

A 2013 pilot study led by Dr. Dean Ornish suggested for the first time that lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet, exercising, and reducing stress all work in a positive direction to lengthen your telomeres.

So, what does it all boil down to?

In short, longer, healthier telomeres mean your chromosomes will have less fraying, clumping together, and alteration of the genetic code. Longer telomeres are linked to a longer, healthier life because they are a vital protector of our DNA.

So sitting less is beneficial to keeping the vitality of these links strong and healthy, thus promoting your longevity and reducing your risk of disease.

Stand up for yourself!

It also means that simply standing more could be better for you than sitting all day without breaks. It’s as easy as getting up from your chair, or whatever you are sitting on, and stand.

Whenever you have an opportunity, get into the habit of standing up. You will do your body and your long-term health a big favour.

Standing increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, and ramps up metabolism in a healthy way.

Take breaks to stand up or move around during long periods of sitting. And don’t sit for too long. Set a timer if you wish to prompt you to get up every 55 minutes.

Sometimes we get so engrossed in what we are doing, watching, or paying attention to that we forget about ourselves.

You might want to look at standing as one way to wash or clear body congestion and heaviness that occurs from too much sitting.

Over to you

How about yourself? Do you recognise the amount of time that you spend sitting and how detrimental to your health it is? What do you do in response to that?

Also, any posture experts that want to pitch in?

Please share some of your ideas and join in the conversation so that we can all help each other. Share this with someone you know who may have a chronic sitting problem and isn’t even aware of how much a health hazard sitting has become!

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