Another Reason Not to be a Couch Potato

You may have heard that sitting is bad for you. But according to a recent study, not all types of sitting are detrimental to your long-term health. 

Work, Leisure and the Heart

According to Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the type of sitting that is truly harmful to the body is leisure time sitting – that is, time spent sitting in front of the television. This report based its findings on its analysis of more than 3,500 participants, and was published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

All of the study participants were of African-American background, and all resided in the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Their sitting habits and overall health were tracked for nearly eight and a half years. Each subject was required to document their number of hours spent sitting and watching TV, their number of hours spent sitting at work and their overall exercise habits. 

The results of the study likely won’t sit well with TV lovers. Compared to those who watched relatively little television, those who reported the most TV watching while sitting (4+ hours per day) were 50 percent more at risk of suffering from cardiovascular events. When the researchers looked at work-related sitting habits, the story was quite different; there was no discernible difference in long-term cardiovascular health between those that sat the most at work and those that sat the least. 

A Possible Explanation

So why would sitting in front of the TV be more harmful than sitting in your cubicle? Senior author Keith M. Diaz, PhD, contends that the two activities might have a few key differences. “It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently,” stated Diaz. “The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”

There is some hope for dedicated couch potatoes, however. “More research is needed, but it’s possible that just taking a short break from your TV time and going for a walk may be enough to offset the harm of leisure-time sitting,” Diaz noted in a university press release. “Almost any type of exercise that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster may be beneficial.”

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