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Sitting Down Too Long Is Bad Even If You Exercise 376

Ant tips the week-old news that sitting down too much is not good for you, even if you are otherwise fit. A blog at the LA Times reports a followup from Swedish exercise experts: they propose "establishing a new way of thinking about sedentary behavior. They suggest abolishing 'sedentary behavior' as a synonym for not exercising. Instead, sedentary time should be defined as 'muscular inactivity' to distinguish it from not doing any exercise at all." These experts warn that the excessively sedentary are running serious health risks, irrespective of how much exercise they get when they're not plonked behind a desk or lying on a sofa.
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Sitting Down Too Long Is Bad Even If You Exercise

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  • My excuse (Score:5, Funny)

    by hedgemage ( 934558 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:08AM (#30829882)
    I can't remember things when I'm standing. I think its because I keep all my thoughts in my lap and when I stand up, they fall on the floor and roll under the desk.
    • Re:My excuse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:21AM (#30831428) Homepage

      I don't think we really consider the impact of what it means to be in front of a computer day in and day out. yesterday a coworker and I put together some cabinets for a lab. It was outside the normal routine of programming/code work that we normally do. After four hours of this, we were both pretty beat, though there was nothing of extraordinary physical prowess required in putting the stupid cabinets together. We had to use a screwdriver, lift metal panels into place, etc, but nothing like my old grandpa used to do day in and day out on his farm. Feeling winded just climbing the steps to my office, I am starting to regret a lot about this particular field.

      Sure one can exercise, but even so, it's always forced and "unnatural" in the sense that it's not required effort for what i do all day long. It's a bit like the guy who engages in body building just long enough to get a movie deal or go on his honeymoon, and then the moment he stops he's worse off than when he started, because all that unnatural muscle turns flabby, because it simply isn't used.

      The other effect that comes with low-activity levels is that I am crankier--less willing to get up and help the kids, keep moving. When you're out of shape you tend to think of the shortest path to doing everything. I noticed this first when I saw an obese couple leaving a shopping market. Both were bickering over who put the groceries away. Then they had to climb up into their pickup, and the cart they were to put away started to drift. Since they'd already both gone to all the effort of climbing into the cab of the truck, neither of them wanted to climb out and get the cart so they yelled at each other. Someone in decent physical condition would not have thought twice about jumping out, grabbing the cart and putting it in its own spot.

      I don't know how one might solve these issues outside of making programming a full-body sport, but the concerns are legit, imo. Exercise really can't be something you tack onto the end of your day. It really should be part of the whole work experience, and there really aren't a lot of trivial solutions to that problem.

      • Re:My excuse (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:50AM (#30831828)

        A little over a year ago, a month into my first job since graduation, I decided I was long overdue some exercise (I'm 24). I've always been a healthy weight, and I've never had trouble running up stairs, to catch a train, when I'm late, dancing in a nightclub etc, but I'd not done anything more than that since school. I knew that I didn't feel fit and energetic, even if I looked OK.

        I also hate doing exercise for the sake of it. Playing sport for fun is OK, but I wanted something that would force me to do exercise as often as possible. Someone suggested I cycled to work, and lent me their spare bike. This was excellent: an hour's good exercise every day (2×30mins), and it was quicker, cheaper and more reliable than any other way of getting to work -- excellent incentive to continue.

        For the first couple of weeks I was really tired when I got home -- I had only enough energy to cook something and then slob in front of the TV. But after the initial shock I seemed to adjust to it, and felt better in the evenings than I used to. After a month a few people commented that I looked healthier, and I definitely felt healthier.

        For extra exercise I tried cycling to other towns (which has purpose: I can look at tourist stuff, and the countryside is pretty along the way). I also tried cycling to the coast (80km/50miles) but lost the map halfway. I really need a companion if I'm to do it again, it got a bit dull going alone.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RobDude ( 1123541 )

        Muscle doesn't turn to flab. Ever.

      • Re:My excuse (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @01:16PM (#30834146) Homepage Journal
        I started running after I got my first cubicle jockey job. Thirty minutes of pushing myself hard after work every day and ten minutes of stretching before and after. This qualifies as the 'exercise you tack on the end of your day' category, but I feel great. My legs are in excellent shape. I have more energy than I ever used too. I have a much more 'get shit done' attitude. I'm not nearly as lazy. Of course for the first few months I was just tired and sore all the time. Nowadays, however, after a year's worth of running, I feel great. It works for me =)

        I agree, a sedentary lifestyle is a problem as well as unhealthy. My recommendation, start doing outdoorsy stuff on weekends and afternoons. Pick up some sort of board sport or something. If you are new at it, it will always suck for the first couple of months. Have some perseverance though and soon you will find you have a great new hobby. The plus side of a steady workout is that you can indulge yourself. Build some muscles, increase your metabolism, you can start eating some hearty meals. Good stuuf.

        Also, you mentioned you have kids, try getting involved in a sport or something with them. Take 'em hiking. Some of my best home memories involved my dad and I wandering around in the forest finding old deer skeletons and such on the weekend =)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by greyline ( 1052440 )
      Occasionally, I will shuffle my way over to my pantry from my computer to procure another bag of Cheetos and perhaps a Mnt Dew Code Red. Every now and then, I'll also have to empty the used bottles of Mnt Dew of urine too. My standing up and moving around requirements are thus securely met.
  • Insurance? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onlysolution ( 941392 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:10AM (#30829894)
    I honestly can't help but wonder if this will eventually be used as an excuse to hike insurance/worker's comp rates for desk jockeys...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JackieBrown ( 987087 )

      I have been waiting for insurances to start charging more for people that have poor diet and exercises habits ever since they went after the smokers.

      Unfortunetly, I fall into all of the above categories but have recently quit smoking. (I will swear by chantix for any smoker - assuming that smoker can handle the stomach sickness and nightmares that occur while on the medicine. I didn't have the nightmares but I did have more vivid dreams. It defintely made me sick, though.)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @07:32AM (#30830304)

        The intense nightmares are what makes quitting smoking worthwhile. I don't crave cigarettes anymore, but damn do I miss my own personal holodeck.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PaulSipot ( 1299591 )
        I tried quitting several times before and I usually experience vivid dreams when using nicotine patches (The strongest 24/7 ones), I love it! It makes me want to sleep all the time, but the effect wares off after a week or two :/.
    • Re:Insurance? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:14AM (#30831336) Homepage

      That would not be an excuse. It would be a reason.

  • by Permutation Citizen ( 1306083 ) * on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:15AM (#30829928)

    They can run any study they want, people get badly injured doing sports, not sitting on a sofa.

    • Your subject:

      I'll stay in my sofa

      In your sofa? Is that an Americanism/Anglicism or do we now have LOLCATs posting on slashdot?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        English is not my native language.

        In french we say "Assis dans un fauteuil". This means literaly "sat in an armchair". Sorry for this french-ism.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fuzzix ( 700457 )

          English is not my native language.

          In french we say "Assis dans un fauteuil". This means literaly "sat in an armchair". Sorry for this french-ism.

          Strange... I do sit in a chair, but I sit on a sofa. It's not a French-ism, it's just another of those wonderful quirks of the English language - even native speakers don't get it right a lot of the time.

    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:57AM (#30830124) Homepage Journal

      Please don't mod parent "Funny".

      He's actually pointing out a major cause for mankind's current crisis. No matter if it's financial, political or climate trouble, you can always look at it and find one root cause: All these are issues we are biologically ill-equipped to deal with. Long-term problems with no immediate danger. When the human brain evolved, it didn't have spare room for that kind of processing, except in the general "deal with all the other complicated stuff, if you feel like it" area we call reasoning. Our main problem was not being eaten today, finding a mate soon and getting the tribe to that other place by the end of the month. "Next year" was about as far as our ancestors ever needed to plan, so we don't have any brain matter specialized to doing it. "May hurt me in 10 years time" is a waste of energy to think about when your survival until next week is far from certain.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by codeButcher ( 223668 )
        On the other hand, that equips people just fine for government jobs where I come from - although being able to plan to "the end of the month" might already be a big disqualifier in some departments.
      • by ethork ( 1188253 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:04AM (#30831232)
        As an anthropologist, I have to say that this is basically a false picture of human development. As far as archaeologists can tell, even the earliest homo sapiens lived in complicated symbolic worlds oriented towards all kinds of social issues and conflicts. At least some anthropologists [] have suggested that hunter-gatherers were basically better off than contemporary workers -- obviously they consumed less, but also, so goes the argument, wanted less and wanted different things than we would want. And at the very least, the image of early homo sapiens living in a world that consisted of nothing but sex and hunger is false: these people lived in radically different symbolic worlds than us, and, if you want to judge by the huge monuments in Stonehenge or Easter Island, obviously put a ton of effort into keeping these worlds in motion. The human brain has always been more than mere instinct and reflex.

        I agree, of course, that we deal with many current problems quite badly, but that seems more like a failure in our collective organization than a failure of our biological circuitry. Suppose we take the people in Haiti who have to dig their loved ones out of collapsed buildings with their bare hands, for lack of heavy equipment to work with. Is that a failure of evolution? No, just a failure of logistics (and politics and economics...) What, exactly, is insightful about complaining about our insufficient evolution in the face of problems that need much more local and immediate solutions?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by thepotoo ( 829391 )

          GP is not saying society as a whole can't do impressive things (for ancient cultures religions like animism were able to bind people together to accomplish e.g. Stonehenge or Easter Island), as an anthropologist you know a lot more than I, the ignorant layman, do about that.

          I believe what the GP was referring to was the inability of the individual to form cohesive, specific, long-term plans. This is pretty much the domain of the human pre-frontal cortex - not many other species evolved to have the types of

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tom ( 822 )

          Interesting remark. You and I are reading different books, it seems. I don't doubt that even early humans had a lot more than gathering, hunting and mating in their lives. My argument wasn't regarding the contents of their lives, but rather the timeframe and the closeness between effort and reward. From what I've learnt, it wasn't until agriculture and/or herding evolved that timelines of half a year or more between investment and payoff became common. Way too late in human development to have much of an in

  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info@de v i n m o o r> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:31AM (#30829992) Homepage Journal

    "5 minutes of break during sedentary work" is a good idea, but how often do we need 5 min breaks before the ill effects fo being "too sedentary" kick in?

    • I also wonder about the effect of a good ergonomic chair. I got one because I have RSI, but I've become a real believer in them overall. I'm talking things like the Steelcase Leap, the Humanscale Freedom and so on. The reason why I wonder is because one of their major features is that they are not rigid normally, the move around with the user. You lean back, it leans and provides support at whatever angle you stop at, you shift your legs around, the front moves down to accommodate them and so on. Basically

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:33AM (#30830002)

    EVERY hour spent sitting idle in front of the television raises the risk of premature death from heart disease by 18%, an
    Australian study found.


    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by XavidX ( 1117783 )

      Im done for. I sat in front of the TV at least 6 hours last week.

      18% * 5 = 108%

    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:48AM (#30830064)

      That's quite impressive, it means that theoretically I should die before I finish typing out this respon

      • That's quite impressive, it means that theoretically I should die before I finish typing out this respon

        1. Somebody call 911? 2. Can I get his uid?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by moonbender ( 547943 )

        Wow. His head must have hit the Submit button falling down.

      • This is a case of one of the most misleading abuses of statistics. If heart disease risk is 1% then an 18% increase means it is now 1.18%. Not as dire as it first sounds, but I still doubt that statistic. It sounds like the one where if you don't get 8 hours of sleep you lose brain cells. Someone that knows enough about one aspect of science is making conclusions of one they know nothing of.
    • That only counts if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.
      Cause obviously, we are not about 51684%* dead here up in the Northern part of the globe. Yet.

      * Assuming that an average slashdotter has sat for at least** 6 hours a day in front of a screen or behind a desk for the last 20 years.
      **Yes, yes, I know. 6 hours is way too optimistic for the slashdot crowd. That is why I said "at least".

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:34AM (#30830006)
    TFA actually does not make conclusions anything like what is written in OP. The differences may seem slight at first glance, but they are actually very major.
  • Sitting down on the sofa is different then sitting by a computer. Even the activities are different. I would like to see the study geered towards office workers who sit all day.

  • ... raging at people, I swear I've got enough typing finger strength to tap so hard on a fretboard as to leave my fingerprints in the wood!

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:38AM (#30830020)
    TFA is obviously mistaken on at least one point. They say that every hour spent watching TV increases your risk of premature death by heart attack by 18%... which means that if you spend 8 hours watching TV, you will likely have died 1.44 times. I know that they meant "daily" but even so. The numbers do not add up.
    • by mrjb ( 547783 )
      Also, they're comparing apples and oranges: "Australians and Britons watch television for an average of three hours a day. In the US, where two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese, viewing time is as much as eight hours, Dunstan said. "

      So what's the maximum Australians and Britons watch per day? What's the average in the US? (I don't buy that 8 hours of TV is the daily average).
    • by Clarious ( 1177725 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:49AM (#30830078)

      No, you are wrong, if the normal chance of dying due to heart attack is 0.0001%, then watching TV 8 hours per day will make it 0.000001*(1+0.18*8)= 0.000244%

    • Err... no. an increase of risk of 100% means you're doubling your chances of premature death, not that you have a 100% chance of dying instantly.

      Basic stats, people!

      (Having said that, the claim as stated sounds dubious. Perhaps it's been misreported, and the actual claim is "every hour of _daily_ TV watching increases the risk by 18%" -- which is believable)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Malc ( 1751 )

      Is basic maths not your strong point?

    • They say that every hour spent watching TV increases your risk of premature death by heart attack by 18%... which means that if you spend 8 hours watching TV, you will likely have died 1.44 times

      No, if true it means that your odds of dieing from a heart attack would be 144% higher. If your odds were .001%, now they are .00244% Another example would be that standing on a golf course holding up a metal stick might double your odds of getting struck by lightning (increase your chances by 100%). That doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get struck by lightning every time you lift a stick in the air, just that you're twice as likely as a guy standing between tall buildings and NOT holding a metal stick

  • Ehm, what is the conclusion of this? Abolish sitting altogether? What about office work? Sitting for 8 hours is pretty common, you know..

    • Maybe. Stand at your workstation. Move around a lot. Break up teams spatially, so you have to move around. Might be healthier in the long run.

      • Might be healthier in the long run

        If not healthier, it makes me feel better at the end of the day.
        I tend to get up and walk over to coworkers instead of messenging/calling them, sometimes print on the printer one floor up just to have an excuse to walk up and down the stairs. I take any good reason to get away from the desk for a few minutes because I can really feel the difference when I've been stuck in the chair for a couple of hours.
  • by f0rk ( 1328921 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:43AM (#30830044)

    I go and take a smoke every 1-2h, and walk up and down 3 stories of stairs every time. Am i in risk ?
    I KNEW there were good sides of smoking !!

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:43AM (#30830050)

    The blog misquotes the LA Times article (which originally misquoted the study), and the summary parrots the blog.

    May be a bit of junk science, too, but it's hard to tell since I can't find the original study.

    If the quotes in the corrected LA Times article are accurate, then the researchers are simply full of it. They describe an 46% increased risk of death by all causes, which is patent nonsense. Everyone's risk (unless there's a secret medical facility I can't access) of death from all causes is 100%.

    I'm not saying that there definitely is not a correlation, perhaps even a causal relationship, between sitting for too long in front of the tube and some decrease in life expectancy. However, there may be a step function here where at four hours of sitting the body makes metabolic changes that don't happen at 3.5 (or 2.9, or some such).

    What about sitting at the symphony, ballet, office, or while reading books (or journals)? Why specifically call out the "telly time"? Even then, is there any difference between consistently watching sports (football vs cricket?), drama, comedy (laughter is good for you, remember), game shows, and soaps? Maybe too much passive watching (of any or all TV programming) simply rots some part of your brain and that signals your body to quit wasting time and space.

    What about meal and "euphemism" breaks? How is that figured into the study?

  • If there's anything to be believed here, I wonder if RLS makes any difference.
  • Getting heart disease is risk, obviously, but it's a relatively small one unless you're very unhealthy or you have a history of it in your family. If you increase said risk by 18% per hour you're not actually much more likely to die. For example, if you're facing a 1% chance of heart disease then an hour of telly every day changes that to a 1.18% risk. That's probably within any margin of error anyway.

    18% is the "scary tabloid statistic". The reality is that it's not really a big deal.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:51AM (#30830090) Homepage

    What's that? The bastard offspring of sports "scientists" and holistic medicine "professionals"?

    The published and presumably peer reviewed raw data? Yes, OK, let's discuss that. Advice from people who couldn't get jobs teaching high school gym, and instead have to write about what they would teach, if they could teach? Not so much.

  • The problem is if you stand up, it's harder to type anything in reply to a Slashdot posting.
  • ... what about the disabled in wheelchairs or those that are completely bedridden? Seriously we've had these people around for years and many of them seem just fine. I am a bit skeptical IMHO, I'd like to see a study done on people that are disabled and compare them against those that are not.

  • At the moment, a lot of people are nothing more than doing glorified data entry, and making the occasional judgement call. You really enjoy this when you go to your bank, or dentist, or whatever. You go and sit at their desk, they ask your name and start to enter your visit into the PC, while you wait. Then you state your business, which they again enter while you wait some more. Then they'll give a solution, or send you to someone else, or something, and ask you to wait while they again enter it into the P

  • Make it a point to get up from your desk multiple times during your workday, even if it's only to walk back and fourth across the room a few times.

    I keep my smoking co-workers company outside every now and then, just for the get-up-and-get-the-blood-flowing -factor. I'm betting any second hand smoke I inhale will be less of a risk than the benefits of moving about a bit. (Not that I ever would enter a smoking room, but fortunately there are none at our office.)

    Besides, it's a proven fact that coders need br

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <<deleted> <at> <>> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @07:01AM (#30830156)

    One thing really got stuck in my mind:

    The circulatory system got a heart to pump around the blood.
    But the lymphatic system, hasn’t got a heart. Instead, it relies on the movements of your muscles, to get the immune cells around the body.

    Which makes it pretty clear, that not moving is not very healthy for you.

    I also found, that there are two types of tiredness. The brain one, and the body one.
    Brain-wise I can be completely drained, while still having too much energy in my body, to be able to sleep well.
    Strangely, the opposite is not analogue. Instead, I found that my brain is much fitter in the morning, after being tired, body-wise, the evening before.

    I all in all, making sport, made me come up with better ideas, being able to wrap my head around bigger things, etc. Because I slept better. What really hits it for me, is swimming. You get reeally chilly after it. And sleep like a baby. And in the summer, if nothing else, at least you see some hot girls in bikinis. ;)

    We geeks have a hard time with sports. But I got a little mind-twist for you: How about you see your body as this extremely advanced machine that it is. And you want to tune it, hack it, and keep it running nicely, just like do with your (really much much more primitive computer). Use the same motivation and ways to overcome your previous associations. Remember: You can change your views, whenever you like. Do it for the fun. You don’t have to. But there is this cool thing that you wanna try... ;)

    I should sell stickers, saying “My other computer... is my body!”. ;)

  • Oh I'm awful about this

    I am "excessively sedentary" for 8 hours every night

  • by rossdee ( 243626 )

    Standing up too long is also bad for you - especialy for your feet.
    But what is even worse for you is being unemployed (so you don't have to sit at a desk or work in a factory type job all day (or other shift)) since you then can't afford health insurance etc.

  • OK, I found this article, which had actual numbers: []

    I was able to do the math and figure out what an 18% increase in your chance of dying per hour of TV viewing really meant: The number of people who died during the course of the study was about 3 percent of the participants over a six year period. That means that every hour of TV viewing actually increased their chance of dying by about half a percent in any given year. So if you watch TV eight hou

  • Secret to life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jesus IS the Devil ( 317662 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @08:16AM (#30830520)

    Alright, here's a little secret for all of you:

    Everyone dies, once.

    I rather live enjoying my time on my seat and sofa than force myself to write emails standing up.

  • I love stories that tell you that "too much" is bad for you. Too much sitting? Bad for you!


    Fer chrissakes, "too much" water is bad for you, because you've only had "too much" once you've drowned.
  • I've just started using [] a treadmill desk. Unfortunately I haven't got the level quite right yet, so it's triggering my RSI, but once I get that fixed it does seem to be a good solution to the exercise problem.

    I've learned a lot about radio frequency interference from cheap treadmills [] too ...


  • Thanks science, I go to the gym at your advice and now I'm -still- going to die?

    I have long since stopped giving a shit about most health risks and have instead upped my life insurance to the max. It has long since passed the point where I can make a realistic change to my lifestyle that would still leave my life enjoyable.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.