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Shun the Chair: Extend Your Life by Sitting Less, Moving More

News outlets from The Wall Street Journal to WebMD to Time have picked up on a study that indicates people who spend less time sitting are likely adding years to their lives.

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal's online outlet, BMJ Open, reducing your time spent sitting to 3 hours a day or less may add 2 years to your life expectancy. Plus, cutting TV viewing to fewer than 2 hours a day may extend life by about 1.4 years.

hikeThis reinforces an Australian study released earlier this year that tracked more than 200,000 adults aged 45+ from 2006 to 2010. It found that those who sat for at least 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying within the next 3 years than people who sat for less than 4 hours a day.

Bloomberg interviewed one of the professors involved in the newer study and learned that sitting less would reduce premature deaths by 27% in the U.S. and spending fewer hours in front of the TV may reduce it by 19%. Whoa.

Tips for spending less time in a chair if you work in an office:

• Standing during meetings.
• Walking to a coworker's desk rather than sending an e-mail.
• Getting up as often as possible.

I've been practicing those tactics for years, simply because they seemed logical. For a restroom break, I'll take the stairs to a different floor, or I'll walk to an entirely different building. ("Hey Wood, what brings you over here?" My new reply: "Just extending my life by a couple of years.")

If you decide to start popping up unannounced in a coworker's space, here's a little learned wisdom: Keep your visit friendly, quick and on-task; positively no chit-chat unless your visitee kicks it off.

DesoWhile exercise is good, even active people who sit a lot during their work or leisure time are not doing their longevity any favors, as an article in The Atlantic indicates. So even though I hiked 49 miles over the past 3 days (I marched out to Desolation Peak near the Canadian border in North Cascades National Park; check out the view in the image to the right), I still may not live to 140 as I've been anticipating after all. Rats. Maybe it's time to finally request a standup desk.

Below is an interesting infographic, complete with house-of-horrors graphics (or should that be chair-of-horrors?), from a group called Medical and Billing Coding; click the image to see an enlarged version.

So what do you do to reduce time you spend in chairs?

Sitting is Killing YouPhotos by T.D. Wood.

Posted on at 7:26 PM

Tagged: active, exercise, health and sitting

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Bob Swoap

Thanks for pulling together the relevant science and making a compelling case. I just completed a study of elementary school kids doing physical activity breaks in the classroom -- not just waiting for recess or P.E.. They loved it. Prolonged sitting starts way too early in this country, and we are the worse for it. The program I used is "Instant Recess" developed by Dr. Toni Yancey of UCLA.

Stand-up desks are great. When you finally sit, it feels like such a pleasure, instead of the tiring feeling when one sits most of the day...

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T.D. Wood Staff Member

Thanks for the note, Bob. I've noticed that Keen footwear endorses Yancey's Instant Recess concept and advocates activity/mobility breaks in the workplace: http://recess.keenfootwear.com/recess-at-work/. Sounds smart to me.

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