Monday, February 28, 2011

Sitting Too Much? One-Minute Breaks Can Help

In the last year, we've been repeatedly told by scientists that too much sitting causes excess weight gain, increased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, pain, fatigue, and early death.

Many of us learned of those reports while—where else?—parked in a chair, sitting in front of a computer. A large chunk of the population finds itself in the sedentary state, sitting, on average, for half of every workday, which in turn translates into a sedentary state of mind, too. And while a new study published in the European Heart Journal finds that even exercising moderately to vigorously at some point during the day doesn't fix the damage done by sitting too much, it offers a practical workaround: Taking little breaks—as short as one minute—throughout the work day can help prevent some of the health bummers associated with too much sitting.

Overweight? It might be the Internet's fault.

The details: Australian researchers used data from more than 4,750 adults; they used movement data collected by a device attached to participants' hips while they were awake. Researchers also looked at waist circumference and blood pressure, blood fats, inflammation, and cholesterol levels. The found that the people who were most active during the day recorded a sedentary time of 1.8 hours, while the most sedentary recorded a whopping 21.2 hours per day. The person who recorded the most breaks (even short movement breaks) hit nearly 1,260 in a week, while the most sedentary people recorded just 99 in a full week's time. The researchers found that extended periods of inactivity correlated with larger waistlines and higher risk of cardiovascular problems.

Looking at the number of breaks in sedentary time, the most significant difference found was in waist-circumference measurements. The top 25 percent of people who took the most breaks had a more than 1 ½-inch smaller waist measurement than the 25 percent of people who took the least breaks. The latest study also found that even people who work out regularly at moderate to vigorous intensity were not protected from long bouts of sitting, so even if you regularly exercise, incorporating short movement breaks into your day is important to protect health, the researchers found. "Our research showed that even small changes, which could be as little as standing up for one minute, might help to lower this health risk," explains Genevieve Healy, PhD, a research fellow at the School of Population Health at The University of Queensland in Australia. "It is likely that regular breaks in prolonged sitting time could be readily incorporated into the working environment without any detrimental impact on productivity, although this still needs to be determined by further research. 'Stand up, move more, more often' could be used as a slogan to get this message across."

The number one thing you can do right now to prolong your life.

What it means: When Bob Marley sang, "Get up, stand up," he wasn't imagining workers chained to their desks all day, eyes frozen on computer screens. Still, mounting research suggests that you should emancipate your booty from your seat, even if it's just for a minute at a time. That's good news for people who aren't able to break free regularly for a half-hour walk or an exercise class.

Here's how to build motion into your work schedule.

Move more often.

If your employer isn't willing to set up a Trek Desk workstation in the office, don't feel doomed. Just make a conscious effort to make movement as much a daily routine as meetings and checking email. Instead of emailing an employee, walk over to his or her office; take the stairs; even get up and stretch or do a few yoga poses. If you find you're still having trouble moving more, set up email alerts to make sure you get up and move a few times an hour.

How to find time to exercise, even on your busiest day.

Let other office fixes bring you to your feet.

Suggest moving meetings, stand up while talking on the phone, and use bathrooms on other floors to move more during your workday.

Consider car and TV time, too.

In a May 2010 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers found that men who spent more than 10 hours a week riding in a car or more than 23 hours a week combined of riding and TV watching time were significantly more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease than men who spent less time sitting. While this study only looked at men, other studies have found that women are also negatively impacted by too much sitting. Another study published last year by the American Heart Association found that watching TV for two to four hours a day increased risk of any type of death by 13 percent and risk of death from carciovascular disease by nearly 20 percent, compared to those who watched TV less than two hours a day. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this month found similar results: People who watch more than four hours of TV a day are twice as likely to die of a cardiovascular event as those who watch two hours or less. Clearly, limited tube time is a good start. As for car time, if you find yourself sitting for hours on end every week for a commute, request to work from home a few times a week. Besides, studies also show workers are more productive when working at home.

SOURCE: YahooHealth