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The study team, led by Columbia University exercise researcher Keith Diaz , tracked the movements of close to 8, Americans older than 45 by asking them to wear an accelerometer on their hip. Over a period of 10 days, sitting or lounging behavior took up the equivalent of That's a whole lot of sitting.
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But subjects differed in the extent to which they hunkered down for long stretches without getting up and moving around. After tracking subjects for four years, the researchers found that subjects who racked up the most time sitting were most likely to have died during the study period, and those who spent the least time sitting were least likely to have died. That was no surprise.
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But when they looked at the death rates as a function of how often subjects went long hours without getting up, they saw a similar pattern: Those whose sitting bouts tended to be lengthier were more likely to have died than were those whose sitting spells tended to be shorter. Make no mistake, the authors of the new research cautioned: "Accumulation of large volumes of sedentary time is a hazardous health behavior regardless of how it is accumulated. Study participants who racked up the most time in a chair tended to be older, were more likely to smoke, and were disproportionately African-American.
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They tended to be teetotallers, to have a higher body-mass index , and were less likely to get much intentional exercise. They were also more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, worrisome cholesterol readings and a history of stroke, atrial fibrillation or coronary heart disease. Such findings, of course, beg the question of which comes first — the immobility or the illness that leads to death.
David A. Alter warned in an editorial. But the findings of this prospective population-based study do fit with those of experimental studies.
In trials involving humans sequestered in research labs, scientists have shown that racking up prolonged, uninterrupted bouts of sitting and lounging cause more worrisome short-term changes in metabolic and cardiovascular function than sedentary behavior that's interrupted by periods of physical activity. It only makes sense that those short-term changes translate over time to more profound changes in the risk for diseases linked to sedentary behavior, said Dr. James A. Levine , an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic who studies the health effects of sitting.
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Get up at least once every 30 minutes. Failure to do so may shorten your life, study finds
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