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Stand up for the sake of your health

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Stand up if you want to live a longer, healthier life. Literally that's the answer if you believe a host of studies and experts.

Being chained to our chairs or stuck on our sofas is harming our health.

The benefits of exercise and leading a less sedentary lifestyle have long been extolled but there's now more evidence that sitting for too long can have a negative impact on health.

Being physically active and doing exercise is vital for health but research suggests it doesn't protect you from the negative effects of excess sitting.

So it's not enough to go for a run or workout for an hour and then spend the next 10 hours or so sitting at a desk and afterwards on the sofa watching TV.

There's a distinction to make between exercising too little and sitting around too much.

Where's the evidence?

A study in 2009 of around 17,000 Canadians made the link between sitting time and increased mortality. It found that those who spent most of their time sitting were 50% more likely to die during the study follow-up period than those who sat the least.

Research in 2012 by the Universities of Leicester and Loughborough has also found that sitting was bad for health.

The study combined the results of 18 other studies and found that those who sit for long periods have at least a two-fold increase in their risk of diabetes and heart disease and are almost twice as likely to die from a heart attack than those who stand more.

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England believes that sitting down for hours at work every day is having a negative effect on health.

He says: "Standing up at work is one of the many ways of breaking up sedentary activity and encouraging physical movement in the workplace. Being physically active has proven health benefits such as reducing your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers."

Dr James Levine is a world renowned expert on obesity and author of the book 'Get Up! Your life may depend on it'.

He says the dangers of sitting can't be over emphasised: "Excess sitting is associated with 34 chronic diseases and conditions including obesity, a doubled risk of diabetes, a 147% increase risk of cardiovascular events and a 49% increased risk of death overall. The vast majority of adults and children work seated all day and sit in their leisure time and so most people are exposed to the risks of excess sitting."

He points out that 200 years ago people sat for about 3 hours a day and now the modern office worker sits for 13 to 15 hours a day.

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