Sitting less may expand life span

You may want to go for a walk after reading this: People who don’t sit more than three hours a day are more likely to live an additional two years, a new study has claimed.

Scientists from Louisiana University in the US found that those adults who are only seated for a maximum of three hours a day typically live an extra two years.

Watching television has a similar effect, according to the researchers’ calculations. They found that those who limit their daily viewing to two hours live for nearly a year and a half longer, the Daily Mail reported. Experts have long blamed the growing sedentary lifestyles for rising levels of obesity and a lack of fitness in today’s adults. This in turn is linked to heart problems, diabetes and many forms of cancer. The new findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, will no doubt cause concern amongst office workers who spend most of the day at their desks.

The new research reviewed past studies involving 167,000 adults aged 18 to 90. The researchers compared the subjects’ life expectancy with how much time they had spent sitting down and watching television.

They calculated that 27 per cent of all deaths in America are partly caused by adults spending too much time sitting down. Similarly 19 per cent of all deaths are in part due to watching too much TV.

“The results of this study indicate that extended sitting time and TV viewing may have the potential to reduce life expectancy in the US,” they concluded. Commenting on the study, Natasha Stewart of the British Heart Foundation said: “It does highlight what we already know about sedentary behaviour being a risk factor for developing heart disease. And recent UK guidelines suggested we should all minimise the time we spend sitting down.

“We all need to be regularly active to keep our hearts healthy. So whether it’s by walking to the shop rather than driving, or playing sport rather than watching it on TV, there are lots of ways to be more active and improve your health.”

But other experts said the study certainly did not prove sitting down for too long shortened your life expectancy.

“This is a study of populations, and does not tell you personally what the effect of getting off the sofa might be,” said Prof David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge.

“It seems plausible that if future generations moved around a bit more, then they might live longer on average. But very few of us spend less than three hours sitting each day, and so this seems a very optimistic target.” 

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