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Sedentary Behaviors May Shorten Our Lifespan

July 10, 2012

Recent studies published by the BMJ Open and American Cancer Society have found that reducing sedentary behaviors could  improve life expectancy in the U.S. With health consciousness at an all time high, most people recognize that maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle is essential to living longer. But the new study suggests that even those who set aside 30 minutes to an hour for exercise each day still isn’t enough.

In a recent Bloomberg article “Sitting Less May Add Two Years to U.S. Life Expectancy,” Peter Katmarzyk, a  professor of epidemiology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said “It’s not just about getting physical activity in your life. Just because you’re doing 30 minutes of physical activity, what about the other 23.5 hours,” he said. “Don’t just sit the rest of the day.” 

 For those of us who work in an office setting 8-10 hours of the day, this may seem like an unreasonable suggestion.  The good news is we can keep our day jobs and still keep ourselves healthy with a few easy changes to our daily routine, says Katmarzyk. By simply getting up, standing and stretching once an hour or walking down the hall to talk to someone rather than sending an e-mail, we can add years to U.S. life expectancy.

But of course, like any new study, more research must be conducted in order to directly tie how many hours of  sedentary behavior actually contributes to disease and life expectancy. Individual actions such as weight, diet, health and whether someone smokes go together with other factors to determine a person’s life span, said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIF Health System in Great Neck, New York. “I wouldn’t bet I would die two years earlier because I sat in the office all day,” Copperman, who wasn’t an author on the study. She did agree that people who sit as part of their jobs “need to take an activity break where we actually get up and walk around.” Read More…

According to a similar Business Week article, “Kill Your Desk Chair- and Start Standing,” a few businesses have taken this finding to heart. By installing standing desks and desks with treadmills, businesses are not only creating a healthier environment but could be preventing worker’s compensation claims. The article explains how Vanessa Friedman, an ergonomics consultant for mid- to large-size companies said most of the businesses that call her to help install standing desks do so after a worker’s compensation claim. “In California, where we are, back injuries commonly cost $60,000. After that, $1,500 on a desk doesn’t seem like a lot to spend,” she says. If sitting disease catches on as a diagnosis, she points out, claims are likely to increase. As more businesses catch on to adapting these modern working environments, it will be interesting to see how both health and work productivity improve. Read More…

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