More bad news for couch potatoes

Our previous blog post called for more than the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise for people with inactive jobs or inactive lifestyles. Our campaign against inactivity goes on, today representing a study by an Australian research group. The findings concluded that each hour you spend sitting in front of the TV reduces your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes – ten minutes longer than a cigarette.

Funny but risky

The study, lead by J. Veerman at the University of Queensland, was published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. Data from 12000 Australians was collected by a national survey on diabetes, obesity and lifestyle. The respondents answered questions about health, diseases, exercise, smoking, dietary habits and hours of watching television per day.The goal was not to measure time in front of the screen specifically, but get a ballpark figure of the amount of hours a person spent sitting. With these data in hand, the researchers tried to isolate the factor of risk posed by long stay seated for other unhealthy habits like smoking and not exercising. Their conclusion was that adults who spends six hours a day sitting in front of TV, lives nearly five years less than persons who do not watch television.

Interestingly, another study on the same subject was published this fall by a British group in the scientific journal Diabetologia, and reviewed 18 studies – total 794,577 individuals investigated – that took into account not only the period in which the person remains seated in front of the TV, but also the time sitting at work. The authors showed that adults on average spend between 50 and 70 % of their day sitting. Furthermore, the study showed that people who spend more than seven hours a day sitting have a 112 % increase in risk of developing diabetes, 147 % in risk of cardiovascular disease and 49 % in risk of dying prematurely even if they exercise regularly.

So, the take home message is: spend less and less time sitting and exercise more! It’s just as simple as that. We will write more about this topic the coming weeks, and you can also find tips for exercising in previous blog posts.

Written by Gustavo da Silva, researcher at CERG.

2 thoughts on “More bad news for couch potatoes

  1. SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2012

    Heart Problems – It’s not only for Couch Potatoes
    I have always been fit whether through running, cycling, mountaineering, skiing, kayaking whatever and for years I was under the impression that my life style made me immune from any possibility of heart problems. After all I was regularly Mountainbiking at a high level and holding my own with youngsters half my age.

    Our usual testing ground, Innerleithen a well known centre in the Scottish Borders, begins with an unrelenting hour long climb, for many a lot longer, to high on the Minch Moor before the downhill fun starts. This climb is unavoidable and for years I had relished it because my light build and cardiovascular system were suited to that kind of effort. However, for some months I had been enjoying it less and less, often trying to get a head start on the climb so I could take things easier. At 59 years of age the obvious answer was I was getting older and, disappointing as it was, I should expect this drop off in performance

    On 3rd April this year I started up the climb having managed to sneak away while the rest of the
    group were still in the carpark and pretty soon I felt things even harder than was becoming usual, so much so that I stopped and sat down at the side of the track. My hands and forearms had started to feel a bit numb and my breathing had become laboured but by the time the others caught up I was recovered enough to continue. I did note how surprised they were to see that I had stopped to sit down. I was soon forced to have another stop which I attempted to disguise as a requirement to remove a rain jacket as I was too warm but by this time my pals were beginning to suggest that I call it a day.

    To cut along story short I stubbornly persisted in going to the top and continued for another 2 hours doing the normal descents. However in response to the concerns of the rest of the group, I agreed to visit my Doctor the following day.

    I made an appointment and was delighted to be seen by someone who has been involved in hill running for many years and who might be more open to the idea of someone of my age performing at these levels. I was expecting to be told that I might have to get used to reduced performance as I aged and was surprised when the Dr told me she could detect a heart murmmer. This resulted in a same day admission to the Chest Pain Clinic at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary quickly followed by the news that I was suffering from Aortic Stenosis and would require Open Heart Surgery to replace the much narrowed valve. I was also informed I may well require a bypass graft.

    Stunned I think is the only way to describe how I felt and then sorry for myself and then angry, a whole gamut of emotions as I begun the journey of coping with the new reality

    • It is true that there is no guarantee to avoid disease, even though you have a very healthy lifestyle. Disease also relies on things outside what we are able to control, like genetics or environmental factors.
      Still, after numerous studies from all over the world, we see that exercise is a very strong protective factor of coronary heart disease due to its beneficial effects to the heart. It is also shown that an active lifestyle may help you recover easier when you get sick.

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