Sitting too much, not just lack of exercise, is detrimental to cardiovascular health

July 7, 2014, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Dr. Jarett Berry, UT Southwestern Medical Center. Credit: UT Southwestern

Cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that sedentary behaviors may lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels. New evidence suggests that two hours of sedentary behavior can be just as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.

The study, published in today's online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined the association between , daily exercise, and , based on data from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Sedentary behavior involves low levels of energy expenditure activities such as sitting, driving, watching television, and reading, among others. The findings suggest that sedentary behavior may be an important determinant of cardiorespiratory fitness, independent of exercise.

"Previous studies have reported that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes; however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are not completely understood," said Dr. Jarett Berry, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Science and senior author of the study. "Our data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behavior throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity."

The team of physician-researchers analyzed accelerometer data from men and women between the ages of 12 and 49 with no known history of heart disease, asthma, or stroke, and measured their average daily physical activity and sedentary behavior times. Fitness was estimated using a submaximal treadmill test, and variables were adjusted for gender, age, and body mass index. The findings demonstrate that the negative effect of six hours of on fitness levels was similar in magnitude to the benefit of one hour of exercise.

"We also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and was also associated with better fitness," said Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, a recent graduate from the UT Southwestern Cardiology Fellowship Training Program and first author of the paper. "So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget."

To stay active and combat sedentary behavior, UT Southwestern preventive cardiologists recommend taking short walks during lunch and throughout the day, using a pedometer to track daily steps, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, hosting walking meetings at work, and replacing a standard desk chair with a fitness ball or even a treadmill desk, if possible.

NHANES is an ongoing series of studies conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The database contains health and nutritional data from a diverse population, representative of the U.S. population.

Explore further: Study assesses amount, patterns of sedentary behavior of older women

Related Stories

Study assesses amount, patterns of sedentary behavior of older women

December 17, 2013
Among 7,000 older women who wore an accelerometer to measure their movement, about two-thirds of their waking time was spent in sedentary behavior, most of which occurred in periods of less than 30 minutes, according to a ...

Researchers develop app focused on making obese adults less sedentary

June 26, 2014
Even individuals who exercise a lot can be at risk for health problems if they also spend a lot of time in sedentary behaviors, such as sitting. More sedentary time, regardless of physical activity levels, is associated with ...

US teens' cardiorespiratory fitness has dropped in last decade: report

May 28, 2014
(HealthDay)—More and more U.S. teens now fall short when it comes to cardiorespiratory fitness, a new government report shows.

Watching too much TV may increase risk of early death in adults

June 25, 2014
Adults who watch TV for three hours or more each day may double their risk of premature death compared to those who watch less, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Regardless of exercise, too much sedentary time is linked to major disability after 60

February 19, 2014
If you're 60 and older, every additional hour a day you spend sitting is linked to doubling the risk of being disabled—regardless of how much moderate exercise you get, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Sedentary lifestyles up mortality risks for older women

January 22, 2014
Older women who spend a majority of their day sitting or lying down are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, cancer and death, finds a new study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Recommended for you

Biomechanical mapping method aids development of therapies for damaged heart tissue

January 23, 2018
Researchers have developed a new way to capture the detailed biomechanical properties of heart tissue. The high-resolution optical technique fills an important technology gap necessary to develop and test therapies that might ...

Researchers borrow from AIDS playbook to tackle rheumatic heart disease

January 22, 2018
Billions of US taxpayer dollars have been invested in Africa over the past 15 years to improve care for millions suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic; yet health systems on the continent continue to struggle. What if the ...

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.