If you're reading this at your desk or on your couch, you might want to stand up first. While many of us think we can counter the effects of sitting all day in front of our computers or TV, by working up a sweat at the gym, a new study suggests that simply standing more could be better for you.
Swedish researchers have discovered that simply spending less time sitting everyday can help lengthen your telomeres, which have been linked to longevityTelomeres are the protective '"caps" at the ends of our DNA that protect chromosomes from damage. Some scientists liken them to the plastic caps on the ends of your shoelaces, keeping the laces from fraying.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at overweight, sedentary individuals in their late 60s over a six-month period. Around 50 participants were prescribed a physical activity plan to follow. All participants were given a pedometer to measure their number of daily steps and a journal to record how much time they spent sitting every day.
Surprisingly, it was sitting less, not exercising more, that was seen to lengthen telomeres. "In many countries formal exercise may be increasing, but at the same time people spend more time sitting," researchers wrote. "We hypothesize that a reduction in sitting hours is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals."
Other studies have concluded the same, that an all-around active lifestyle is better than just hitting the gym. An Australian study found that in middle-aged people, more time spent sitting is associated with a higher chance of diabetes and other chronic diseases. And of course, a 10-year study published in 2012 made the claim that sitting for more than three hours a day can shave two years off your life expectancy. Add watching two or more hours of TV a day, another 1.4 years docked.
The bottom line? Get up, get moving.