LONDON (AP) — Here’s a new warning from health experts: Sitting is deadly. Scientists are increasingly warning the public that sitting for prolonged periods of time, even if you also exercise on a regular basis, could be bad for your health. It also doesn’t matter where the sitting takes place; at the office, school, car, or in front of a computer or TV. What matters is just the overall number of hours it occurs.  Research is preliminary, but several studies suggest that people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to be overweight, have a heart attack, or even die.  In an editorial published this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Elin Ekblom-Bak of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences suggested that authorities rethink how they define  physical activity to highlight the dangers of sitting.  While health officials have issued guidelines recommending minimum amounts of physical activity, they have not suggested that people try to limit how much time they spend in a seated position.

People might get more of a benefit if their exercise were spread across the hours of a day, rather than in a single bout. That wasn’t welcome news for Aytekin Can, 31, who works at a London financial company, and spends most of his days sitting in front of a computer. Several evenings a week, Can also teaches jiu jitsu, a form of Japanese martial arts that involves wrestling, and he also partakes in Thai boxing. “I’m sure there are some detrimental effects of staying still for too long, but I hope that being active when I can helps,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to think that sitting could be that dangerous.”  Still, in a recently published study that tracked more than 17,000 Canadians for about a dozen years, researchers found that people who sat more had a higher risk of death, independent of whether or not they exercised.  “We don’t have enough evidence yet to say how much sitting is considered bad,” said Peter Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, who led the Canadian study. “But it seems the more you can get up and interrupt this sedentary behavior, the better.”

James Katz MD

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