POST 50
02/19/2014 12:24 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

Too Much Time Spent Sitting Increases Disability Risk, Study Suggests

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Long hours chained to your work desk could really be harming your health, a new study reveals. Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine believe spending long hours each day sitting down could lead to disability later in life.

The study looked at the physical activity levels of 2,286 adults over 60 and found just an additional hour spent sitting each day considerably increased the risk of disabilities. For example, a 65-year-old woman who spends 13 hours a day sitting is 1.5 times as likely to develop a disability then if she were to spend 12 hours a day sitting.

What's more troubling is that the effects of sitting for extended periods don't seem to be countered by regular visits to the gym. "This is the first time we’ve shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise. Being sedentary is not just a synonym for inadequate physical activity," lead author Dorothy Dunlop said in a release. Disability in old age can hinder simple everyday activities like getting in and out of bed, bathing, or even walking.

Long periods of sitting have been linked with chronic health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. One recent study even found that older women who spent extensive hours sitting each day whether at work or on the couch had a much higher risk of premature death!

Dunlop says that while more longitudinal research is needed, the findings serve as a wakeup call for seniors leading inactive lifestyles. She suggests making some simple tweaks to your daily routine to increase your activity:
  • Stand rather than sit while taking phone calls at work
  • While out running errands, park at a farther parking spot to force yourself to walk more
  • When you get up to grab a drink, take a lap around your home or office
  • Try walking rather than driving, whenever possible
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator, if you can

"Older adults need to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting, whether in front of the TV or at the computer, regardless of their participation in moderate or vigorous activity," Dunlop said.

In the end, it's just one more reason to get moving.

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Dr. Colvin's Advice For Staying Active After 50

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