Standing for life

In these times there are no end of “activities” you can undertake while remaining seated. You can interact with friends via social media, you can play any amount of games, you can shop, you can catch up with news, and that is just the beginning. Technology these days enables you to live your life in the sitting position but the twist is that new research shows the more you sit, the faster you age and the shorter your life.

The new research has shown that sitting ages you at the level of your DNA. Telomeres are little chemical things that sit at the end of chromosomes, the DNA storage units in your cells, and stop your DNA unravelling ore clumping. Effectively, telomeres protect your genetic code like a biological aglet (the little plastic or metal thing that stops your shoelace unravelling). Shorter telomeres indicate more rapid ageing and this study sought to use telomeres to measure the impact of the act of sitting on biological ageing.

The study involved analysing telomere length in the blood cells of sedentary and overweight people in their late 60s. The telomeres were measured at six month intervals and in the intervening time half were put on an exercise program while the others were left to their own devices. All participants also used a pedometer to track how many steps they took each day for a seven day period, they also kept a seven-day physical activity diary, and they completed questionnaires as to how much time they spent sitting.

The results showed that while exercise only increased in the group instructed to exercise, both groups showed a reduction in sitting time. Regardless of exercise, the researchers found that reduced time spent sitting caused telomeres to lengthen and therefore ageing to slow with the expectation that lifespan would increase. In fact, other research has shown that this is exactly the case.

One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2010 involved more than 123,000 people with no history of cancer, heart disease, stroke or lung disease. Between 1993 and 2006, the researchers monitored how many hours the individuals spent sitting and found that women who sat for more than six hours per day were 37 per cent more likely to die during the course of the study. Men who sat more than six hours per day were 18 per cent more likely to die than men who sat for less than three hours per day.

They say you have to stand for something, so don’t just sit there, stand for a longer life.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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