09/19/2014 12:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get Up, Stand Up: Stand Up for Your Life


Chairs are killing us.

Prolonged sitting has been recognized as a major health hazard. A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine takes this connection to another level. Reductions in sitting time appeared to have greater impact than increases in physical activity.

The researchers examined the effect of physical activity on telomeres, a protective cap on our genetic storage units that shrink with aging. This telomere deterioration is associated with the diseases of aging and shortened lifespan. Reduced sitting time was linked to telomere lengthening.

The implications of these findings are profound. We live in a health culture that has prescribed exercise on a regular basis. This is a good thing. But a growing body of data suggests that such exercise will not keep us healthy if we leave the gym and sit for prolonged periods of time.

It may be more important to move throughout the day than have a great bout of daily exercise.

While this was a small study that needs to be repeated with a large population, it complements previous findings about the importance of moving.

And if you don't think you spend extended periods of time on your behind, add it up (meals, commute, desk, television...).

Here are some things you can do fairly easily that can make a difference.

Take all your phone calls standing up.

Set an egg timer on your desk and stand up every 15 minutes for at least one minute.

When watching television, stand up for every advertisement.

If you commute by bus/subway/train, try standing up for the ride.