If you work a desk job, you might make up for all that sitting around by going for a run every day after leaving the office. That exercise cancels out the negative effects of eight hours spent in a chair, right?
Wrong, according to a new advisory from the American Heart Association.
In the lengthy paper, a team of cardiology experts reviewed existing evidence about the link between sitting and health. Their conclusions, published this week in the journal Circulation, say that no amount of physical activity is enough to combat the dangerous health effects of sitting for hours each day. Woof.
The average American sits for six to eight hours per day, according to the AHA’s report. Studies have linked long periods of sitting with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Sedentary days have also been shown to increase anxiety.
Some research has found that frequent breaks from sitting ― even simply fidgeting! ― can help ward off its negative health effects.
But those efforts are not enough, the new advisory says, confirming earlier reports. The cure for all our sitting isn’t exercising more. It’s sitting less.
“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” said Dr. Deborah Young, chair of the report, in a statement. “There is evidence to suggest that sedentary behavior could contribute to excess morbidity and mortality.”
In other words, sitting may kill you faster. And while experts say they don’t have enough data to recommend exact time limits for chair potato-ing, it’s wise to adopt their mantra of “Sit less, move more.”
Popular ways to sit less include trading TV time for active hobbies, walking or biking to work instead of riding in a car or bus, or hosting a walking meeting instead of gathering your colleagues in a conference room. Even setting regular alarms on your phone can be a helpful reminder to stand up, stretch, and decrease your sitting time by a few minutes each day. Your body will give you a standing ovation.