Staying Active Can Add Years To Your Life

Whether you exercise every day or not, you still need to cut down the time you spend sitting in a chair.

Sitting for more than three hours a day can cut two years off a person’s life expectancy, even if he or she exercises regularly, a new study finds. Watching TV for more than two hours a day can shorten life expectancy even further, by another 1.4 years.

The findings suggest that when it comes to gleaning health benefits from physical activity, it may not be enough just to get the recommended amount of daily exercise — the government advises about a half-hour of moderate activity a day for adults. But what about the other 23.5 hours of every day? Researchers say it’s important not to spend it sedentary or sitting.

In the same way that both pushing the gas and hitting the brake can adjust the speed of your car, researchers say that physical activity and sedentary behavior independently affect your health and life expectancy. Whether “you’re physically active and meet the exercise guidelines, or if you’re not active,” says Peter Katzmarzyk, professor of epidemiology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and lead author of the new paper published in the online journal BMJ Open, “sitting is bad.”

You can start by getting up from your chair intermittently at work. Take walks around the hall in your office or try holding walking meetings instead of sitting around a table. Get up to chat with your colleague instead of sending an email. Standing doesn’t take the place of exercise, but it should replace a good chunk of time you spend in your chair. The key is to spend as little time as possible sitting down.

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