Sitting Too Much As You Age May Have Harmful Effects, Even If You Exercise—A New Study Shows

Take a seat (but not for too long) and have us break it down for you.

a photo of an older woman sitting at her desk with her laptop, expressing pain in her back

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Prolonged sitting is known to have negative effects on your body. But if you think doing exercise before or after sitting all day will help combat the risks, that’s where you’re mistaken.

There’s a new study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association which suggests that older women who sit for the majority of their day—regardless of their exercise habits—may face significant health complications. Here’s what the study shows and ways you can add more movement throughout your day.

What the Study Found

The research followed 5,856 women in a 7-year timeframe between the ages of 63 and 99, with a median age of 79. There was a significant increase in mortality rate for those that sat over 11 hours each day, including death by cardiovascular disease. The study showed that older women who reported sitting for more than 11.7 hours every day had a 57% higher risk of all‐cause death and 78% increased risk of cardiovascular disease death compared to those who sat for less than 10 hours, even if they incorporated any amount of moderate to vigorous exercise in their routine. 

Over 11 hours may seem like an absurd amount of time, but think: do you sit all day at work, commute by car and relax by watching TV on the couch in the evening? The hours easily rack up. While structured exercise is a healthy habit, the otherwise lack of movement in your body all day can have harmful effects, including increased dementia risk and, as this study shows, a decreased life expectancy.

If you’re wondering how to break up your seated hours in your days, there’s research that shows walking for just 5 minutes after every 30 minutes of sitting can help undo its negative effects. Walking around the office, taking a stroll outside or using your at-home walking pad or treadmill should do the trick.

The Bottom Line

While sitting all day has a clear negative impact on the body, including a potential increased mortality risk in older adults, there are ways to help mitigate the effects. Adding movement throughout your day instead of exercising all at once is shown to help promote a healthy lifestyle. If you experience neck pain after being at your computer or on your phone for a while, check out this simple 5-minute workout to relieve it.

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