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End Note - October 2017

Don't Just Sit There!

October 31, 2017

According to a recent New York Times article, sitting for long stretches might shorten your life.  A study conducted by scientists from Columbia University and many other institutions relied on extensive data on tens of thousands of Caucasian and African-American men and women over 45 who were part of a stroke risk study.  The participants had been screened with a variety of tests.  The scientists honed in on the records of the 8,000 participants who wore accelerometers for a week to track their daily movements.  They also analyzed how many hours per day each person sat, and how long each bout of sitting lasted, as well as how much time each was spent exercising.  They then compared the records against mortality registers, discarding the data of any people who died within a year of testing, since they might have had an underlying illness.

The resulting data revealed strong statistical correlations between sitting and mortality.  Those who sat for the most hours per day had the highest risk of early death, especially if they sat for more than 30 minutes without interruption.  Risk was not affected by age, gender, race, or body mass.  And most significantly, the risk was barely lowered if the people exercised regularly.  But the scientists did find the risk of early death was lower if the total sitting time was in shorter intervals.  Those who sat fewer than thirty minutes without interruption were less likely to have died.

The article cautions that this study was associational, meaning that it did not prove too much sitting undermines health, only that they are linked.  And other variables could have affected the results.  For examples, deaths could have been from causes unrelated to time spent sitting, such as automobile accidents or illnesses.  The full study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  The researchers are planning further study, including exploring whether just standing rather than walking around could lessen the risks associated with sitting. 

But in the meantime, if you are stuck in your chair before your computer most of the day, stand up and move around every 30 minutes.  It could save your life!


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