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Will sitting kill you?

With people like Apple CEO Tim Cook saying, "sitting is the new cancer," people are sitting up (or standing up) and taking note of our sedentary lifestyles once again. According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, women who sit for six or more hours a day face a 35 percent greater risk of death than those who sit for three hours or less. For men, the increased risk of death is 17 percent. 

Is sitting really the new cancer? Not really. The link between physical activity and cancer prevention has been confirmed through decades of research. What is surprising is that this study suggests that how much you sit matters more than how much you exercise. 

Wait. What? Even if I exercise regularly, if I sit all day, my risk of death is higher? That is what the study suggests.

But let's be honest, it is getting more difficult to be active between longer commutes and eight-plus hour workdays. Sure, there are the occasional walks to a conference room (or, in my case, exam room)—where we sit even more—or to get a cup of coffee. Most of our days are spent sitting in front of a computer, sitting in a car, sitting down to eat and of course sitting in front of the television. So, what’s the solution?

Don't just sit there

As working adults, we spend eight or more hours a day at work, finding ways to reduce sedentary time while at work is one place to start. Find ways to get up and move throughout your day. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Get up and visit co-workers instead of emailing.
  • Stand up or pace while on the phone.
  • Some employers have installed treadmill work stations--take advantage!
  • Convert your workspace to allow for standing. Just make sure it's ergonomically correct.
  • Schedule walking meetings with co-workers instead of a conference room.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible. It's like having a free gym.
  • Park your car farther away and walk to your destination.
  • Stretch, do squats and pushups or use a resistance band during breaks. (This is what I do with my colleagues!)
  • Start a walking or biking group at your work that meets over the lunch hour.
  • Visit the water cooler more frequently throughout the day.

The researchers of this study are recommending "Public health messages and guidelines should be refined to include reducing time sitting in addition to promoting is beneficial to encourage sedentary individuals to stand up and walk around as well as to reach optimal levels of physical activity."

It's still important to exercise regularly (think 30 minutes five times a week) but if you are sitting more than six hours a day, you are leading a sedentary lifestyle and need to move more throughout the day. Are you still sitting?


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