By now, you've likely heard some scary allegations against remaining sedentary. And when James Levine, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, coined the now infamous phrase "sitting is the new smoking," a few years back, the nation participated in a communal panic.
Ever since, the internet has been rife with solutions, strategies, and studies—and to be honest, it can be hard to discern what's what. And as with any health phenomenon, there are always new developments.
Per the latest research, such lifestyle choices do, indeed, pose some serious health risks (we're not shocked). However, there have been a few noteworthy updates on the topic definitely worth pointing out. In particular, the specific number of minutes spent sitting can make a difference, and the magic number is 30.
As Today reports, "People who experience such long bouts of uninterrupted sitting and who stay sedentary for much of their waking time—12.5 hours or more a day—have the highest risk of death from any cause." This information comes straight from the study's lead author, Keith Diaz, associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center. In particular, he stipulates sitting for longer than 30 minutes can be especially problematic.
Luckily, the fix is easy and something we can all implement fairly seamlessly into our daily routine. Diaz's advice: Move every 30 minutes for at least one minute. (In other words, it's a great excuse to grab yourself another cup of coffee, run to the bathroom, or just do a quick power lap around the office.)
“People need to be mindful and try to take a break every half hour if they can,” Diaz told Today. “When our bodies are not moving, they just stop working like they’re supposed to." Plus, according to the researchers executing the study, staying still for an hour or 90 minutes at a time made matters worse. Diaz adds, “If you spend your day like that, it doesn’t matter whether you squeeze in a workout in the morning or at night.”
Our recommendation? As with any study, try not to sweat too much. We're only human, and it's not always possible to stand up every 30 minutes and chart how long we've been sitting, staring at your screen all day—especially when it's your job to sit in front of a desk. However, it's food for thought, and a healthy level of awareness is always helpful when it comes to living your best life.
Diaz KM, Howard VJ, Hutto B, et al. Patterns of sedentary behavior and mortality in U.S. middle-aged and older adults: a national cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(7):465‐475. doi:10.7326/M17-0212