Recently scientists from the University of South Carolina and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., parsed the full data. In a study published in May in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, they reported that, to no one’s surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems.
Ill effects of sitting
Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars had a 64 per cent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less.
What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.
Most of us have heard that sitting is unhealthy. But many of us also have discounted the warnings, since we spend our lunch hours conscientiously visiting the gym. We are, in a phrase adopted by physiologists, ‘‘active couch potatoes.’’
Regular workout sessions do not appear to fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting. ‘‘There seem to be different pathways’’ involved in the beneficial physiological effects of exercising and the deleterious impacts of sitting, says Tatiana Warren, a graduate student in exercise science at the University of South Carolina and the lead author of the study of men who sat too much. ‘‘One does not undo the other,’’ she says.
You can, however, ameliorate the dangers of inactivity with several easy steps — actual steps. ‘‘Look for ways to decrease physical inactivity,’’ Ms. Warren says, beyond 30-minute bouts of jogging or structured exercise. Stand up. Pace around your office. Get off the couch and grab a mop or change a light bulb the next time you watch ‘‘Dancing With the Stars.’’