The Heart Health Dangers of Sitting

The more you sit, the less you move, and the less you move, the more your risk of heart disease increases.

We all know that leading a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease. The more you sit, the less you move, and the less you move, the more your risk increases.

There’s a new saying in the world of heart health: Sitting is the new smoking. There is a lot of new evidence that sitting for long periods of time can have a profound negative effect on your health.

A study published a few years ago in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for long periods of time is a risk factor for early death. According to the study, the more time you sit, the greater your risk for early death becomes. Participants in the study who sat for more than 13 hours per day had a 200 percent greater risk of death than participants who sat for less than 11 hours.

Participants who moved more and sat less (sitting less than 30 minutes at a time) had a 55 percent lower risk than those who sat for 30 minutes or more at a time. While participants who often sat longer than 90 minutes at a time were about twice as likely to die than those who always limited their sitting time to less than 90 minutes at a time.

Sitting all day can be very damaging to your body, but especially to your heart. If you spend too much time sitting, you are putting your body at risk of the following:

  • Blood flow slows down, which allows fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels. This can lead to heart disease.
  • Your body’s ability to process fats is decreased, increasing your risk of obesity. Lipoprotein lipase is an important enzyme your body produces to break down fat in your blood. When you sit, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase drops by about 90 percent, which makes it very difficult for your body to use fat. When your body doesn’t use fat, it gets stored. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Sitting can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause type 2 diabetes and obesity, two risk factors for heart disease.

If your job requires long periods of sitting, you don’t have to just accept the effects of sitting. Here are some tips for counteracting those negative effects of sitting:

  • Use a standing desk or a convertible desk that allows you to sit or stand. This will encourage you to move around more.
  • Take frequent breaks to move, walk, and stretch. Get up at least once per hour and walk around for a few minutes. Try using an app on your phone or desktop to remind you to move or get a smart watch and set it to alert you that it’s time to get up and take a movement break.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise – at least an hour per day.

If you are desk bound, a 2019 Journal of the American Heart Association study has some encouraging findings – sitting at work may not be as bad for your heart and longevity as sitting and watching TV in your free time. After adjusting for health and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that “often or always” sitting during work hours was not associated with a heightened risk of death and heart disease. But those watching four or more hours of television per day had a 50% higher risk of heart issues and death, compared to those watching two hours or less per day.

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