Entries in Sitting (6)


Study Says Cutting Couch and TV Time Could Bump Up Life Expectancy

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Getting regular exercise is obviously an important part of staying healthy. But what about what we do with the rest of our time? A new study suggests that the time we all spend sitting is taking years off life expectancy in the U.S.

Scientists are just beginning to investigate how sitting affects health, and early evidence has linked an excess of sitting time to all kinds of chronic maladies, particularly heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Now, a new analysis published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the life expectancy of the entire U.S. population could increase if Americans simply reduce the time they reduce channel-surfing on the sofa.

Researchers looked at the results of five studies that explored the effects on nearly 167,000 people of sitting and watching television. Then they turned to national data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how much time Americans report sitting and watching TV.

Based on all this data, the researchers calculated that limiting the time Americans spend sitting to three hours or fewer each day would increase the life expectancy of the U.S. population by two years. Cutting down TV watching to fewer than two hours each day would bump life expectancy up by another 1.4 years.

Exercise is a good thing, and getting the amount recommended by groups like the CDC, the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute -- 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five times each week -- is a vital part of staying healthy. But Peter Katzmarzyk, the study's lead author and a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., said it's becoming clearer that people need to do more.

"It is true that meeting the physical activity guidelines is one of the best things you can do for your health. But on the other hand, there are 23 and a half other hours of the day that we can't ignore," he said.

Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, agreed that the physical activity guidelines are important, but she said they are based on research conducted over the last 60 years.

"In that time, a lot of what we do in our daily lives has changed," she said. "We've replaced much of what we used to do with sedentary behavior, and we have to understand the implications of that."

It's difficult for scientists to say that your recliner or your television will kill you, and Katzmarzyk said the study doesn't establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between sitting, TV watching and death. But the evidence suggesting an association between shortened lives and sedentary activities, like TV watching and driving, is piling up. For example, a 2010 study found that the mortality rates were 25 percent lower for people reporting the most physical activity compared with those reporting the least.

But what drives that association is unclear. Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said one possible explanation is that the health effects come not so much from TV watching or driving themselves, but the other things people do during those activities, such as binging on unhealthy snacks or being stressed.

"Those behaviors are very detrimental to our health independent of our physical activity levels," Hu said.

There also seems to be something about sitting itself that is bad for one's health. Studies in both animals and humans have found that sitting leads to changes in resting glucose levels and blood pressure, and that lots of sitting bumps up levels of certain biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

"The take-home message is clear: we may not know exactly why sitting is bad for you, but if you reduce the amount of time spent sitting, there are real health benefits," Patel said.

Researchers say the overall message is to move beyond thinking about physical activity as something you do once a day for half an hour. That suggestion has enormous implications for how people currently work, commute and spend their free time.

Katzmarzyk said since many people spend at least eight hours each day sitting at a computer, the workplace is an ideal place to start looking for ways to reform behavior. Patel said changes don't have to be major -- people can get up to talk to colleagues instead of emailing them, or spend a few minutes of their lunch breaks taking a short walk.

And of course, a good place to start making changes is by squeezing the recommended 30 minutes of exercise into every day.

"We have to get folks to understand that doing anything is better than doing nothing," Patel said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Common Causes of Low Back Pain

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Low back pain is one of the most disabling conditions in the U.S., and experts say that 80 percent of Americans will suffer from it at some point in their lives.  It's estimated that back pain costs more than $90 billion a year in lost productivity and work days.

While back pain can be debilitating for many who live with it, in most cases it can be treated non-surgically, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  Exercise and staying fit are among the best treatments, back specialists say.  Lifting objects using the legs while holding objects away from the body is one of the best ways to prevent it.

There are numerous causes for low back pain, ranging from muscle strains to ordinary daily activities that people don't realize can lead to back problems.  ABC News talked to several experts about some of these lesser-known causes of lower back pain.


Overweight and obese adults are more likely to have disc degeneration in their lower back than normal-weight adults, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Disc degeneration occurs when the discs of the spine start to break down, and it sometimes causes low back pain.  While disc degeneration is part of the normal aging process, researchers in China found that among 2,599 Chinese men and women, body mass index (BMI) was significantly higher in people with disc degeneration.

They also found that underweight participants were significantly less likely to have degenerative disc disease.

"When you look at their underweight group compared to other groups, it's a very compelling observation that there's a clear association between weight and disc degeneration," said Dr. Scott Boden, professor of orthopedic surgery and director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta.

Exactly what that association is, however, is harder to establish.  The authors believe weight gain may cause physical stress on the disc and, in addition, chronic inflammation brought on by the fat cells can lead to disc degeneration.


"Sitting is worse than standing.  Sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on your back, especially if you're not using core muscles to support your back," said Dr. Nick Shamie, associate professor of spine surgery at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

What's even worse is sitting and leaning forward to pick up something from the floor, which places the maximum amount of force on the lower back, he added.  Instead of leaning and reaching, Shamie explained the best way to pick something up is to get on the knees, pick it up and keep the object close to the body.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends sitting in a chair with good lower back support.  If sitting for a long time, people should rest their feet on a low stool or stack of books.  But if possible, switch sitting positions and get up and walk around a bit throughout the day.

Mattress Type

Whether a soft mattress or a firm mattress is better for the back is up for debate.  There hasn't been a lot of research on it, but a 2003 study found that people who slept on medium-firm mattresses reported less back pain.

"If a bed is either too stiff or too soft, it's likely to cause back problems, but there is a lot of individual variation on that," said Dr. Richard Deyo, professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland.  "You need enough support so the spine is not sagging, but you don't want it so rigid that the spine is forced into an unnatural position."

High Heels

There's nothing to definitively link wearing high heels to the increased likelihood of developing back pain, but experts say it does make sense.

"Having the heel elevated changes the posture and probably forces the lower back into more of an extended position, and that can be painful over time," said Deyo.

But Shamie said wearing high heels is more likely to affect other parts of the body more than the back.

"High heels can put a lot of stress on your feet, but not as much on your lower back," he said.

Purses and Backpacks

"It makes perfect sense that if you have a heavy backpack, there's definitely a potential risk for injuring your lower back and other joints," said Shamie.

In general, he said, maximum weight should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of body weight.

Deyo, however, said the backpack issue has been controversial, and study findings have been conflicting.  Nonetheless, it's probably wise to get an extremely heavy load off the back if possible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Get Up! Sitting Makes You Fat, Research Suggests

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- New research gives many of us yet another reason to get up off our desk chairs  and get moving.

The findings, published in Cell Physiology, suggest that the pressure placed in the buttocks and hips from sitting down for too long can generate up to 50 percent more fat in those areas.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University looked at MRI images of muscle tissue in people who had been paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and found that major amounts of fat cells stretched to surround the areas around the muscles that endured pressure from lying or sitting. The researchers then manipulated a group of fat cells to stretch and stay sedentary for long periods of time, representing the time spent sitting or lying down. After two weeks, they found that stretched cells produced nearly 50 percent more liquid fat than regular fat cells.

“These findings indicate that we need to take our cells’ mechanical environment into account as well as pay attention to calories consumed and burned,” Amit Gefen, one of the Tel Aviv researchers, told the U.K.’s Telegraph.

Previous research found that those who were bound to wheelchairs or were bedridden developed abnormal muscle and fat growth in areas of the body where more pressure was placed. But Gefen said this research could also translate to the not so extreme sedentary lifestyle.

Even those who eat well and exercise can suffer the consequences of a bigger butt and waistline if they stay seated for longer periods of time, according to this research. But forgo the exercise and become a couch potato and the results could be worse, Gefen told The Telegraph.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Loafing Could Be Lethal, Study Says

db2stock/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – New data from the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that more than 90 thousand cases of colon and breast cancer diagnosed every year may be caused by lack of physical activity, according to USA Today. The findings are being presented today in Washington, D.C. and refers to 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer.

This research confirms the long-standing theory that a simple 30 minute walk can lower the risk of cancer. Experts and the American Cancer Society are among those who have always emphasized the importance of exercise as a way to stay healthy and lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

What’s new about this study is that it actually gives an estimate of the number of cases that could be prevented if the individuals were more active.

USA Today reports that the calculations are based on U.S. physical activity data and cancer incidence statistics. Analysis of more than 200 cancer studies worldwide suggest that physical activity would reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer by 25-30 percent.

The health risk associated with “sitting disease” is not isolated to cancer either.

Alpa Patel, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist, conducted a study to investigate the general health dangers of sitting too long without moving. In this study of about 123,000 people, she found that the risk of dying early was significantly higher for those people who spent more time sitting than being active.

Patel suggests taking a “break” from sitting, and making sure to get up and walk around periodically during the day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sitting for Prolonged Time Increases Risk for Lung Blood Clots

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Sitting for long periods of time has already been associated with increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as elevated cholesterol, increased BMI and waist circumference, and increased levels of biomarkers of inflammation. Now, add lung blood clots to the list.

In a study published Monday in the British Medical Journal, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed medical records from almost 70,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1990 to 2008 and found that those who sat for about six hours per day had more than double the risk of lung blood clots than women who sat for an average of two hours each day.

It is worth noting that the actual rate of lung blood clots increased from 0.04 percent in the most active women to 0.1 percent in the least active ones, making the actual risk of lung blood clots from sitting very, very small.

However, the authors still state that “interventions that decrease time sitting could lower the risk of pulmonary embolism [lung blood clots].”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Sitting Too Long At Work Be Dangerous?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- Those who stand at work say it helps them stay focused, avoid feeling like they need a nap in the afternoon and even helps them shed pounds.  Famous figures like Donald Rumsfeld and novelist Philip Roth have done it for years.  And now some doctors say you should do it, too.

Marc Hamilton, a physiologist at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, discovered when he prevented lab mice from standing up, an enzyme that burns fat gets turned off, which can lead to weight gain.

"This enzyme is virtually shut off within hours of not standing, completely independent of diet, completely independent of weight changes," Hamilton said.  "I think sitting is very dangerous."

Hamilton isn't the only doctor standing up to sitting down.  A study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18 percent more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio