The results of two studies released in January will attack the couch potato tendencies present in many of us! Too much time in front of a TV or computer appears to dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and premature death from any cause, even regardless of how much exercise a person gets. Taking plenty of breaks, even if they are as little as one minute, appear to be good, both for people’s hearts and their waistlines.
One study, published in the European Heart Journal, look at the links between the amounts of time a person spends sitting down as well as breaks in sedentary time, with various indicators of risk for heart disease, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and inflammatory diseases such as blocked arteries. The study found that even in people who moderately or vigorously exercised, those who had prolonged times where they were sedentary had larger waist circumferences, lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, higher levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation) and triglycerides (blood fats).
The other study found that people who devote more than four hours to on screen-based entertainment like watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games are more than twice as likely to have a major cardiac event that involves hospitalization, death or both, than those who spend less than two hours a day on these activities. As reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, there was a 48% increased risk of mortality in those spending four or more hours a day on screen-based entertainment and an approximately 125% increase in risk of cardiovascular events in those spending two or more hours a day. These associations were independent of traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, BMI, social class, as well as exercise.
Even small changes such as standing up for one minute, might help to lower health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles. Some other ideas include taking timeout to stretch; some companies even do group stretches a few times each shift. When reaching for the phone to talk with a co-worker down the hall, stand up and walk over instead. Park farther away from the store or office entrance you’re going to. Take a few trips to the mail/supply room every day rather than going on just one mail run. Use the stairs, rather than the elevator.
Every hour or so, whether at work or home, find an excuse to get up from your chair and give your body an opportunity to move around a little. Your heart will appreciate it!