Health & Wellness

Want to Live Longer? Get Off Your…Seat

By Lola Augustine Brown


Spending too much time sitting down can cause you to age more quickly than if you live a less sedentary lifestyle, according to research results published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

That we spend too much time on our behinds and that it’s bad for us isn’t news—experts have called it a health crisis. These study results are new because they concern older women specifically.

The research involved 1,481 women aged 64–95 (their average age was 79.2) who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study looking into the causes of chronic diseases among postmenopausal women.

Researchers used both activity-monitoring devices and questionnaires to determine the subjects’ activity levels. When researchers examined the cells of sedentary women, they found that their cells had shorter telomeres (caps on the end of DNS strands, rather like the tips on shoelaces). The shortening of telomeres happens naturally as we age, but it’s accelerated by smoking and obesity—and apparently by a sedentary lifestyle—and shortened telomeres have been associated with higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and major cancers.
However, researchers also found that, even if the women did sit for hours at a time, the negative effects were mitigated if they did 30 minutes of exercise at some point in the day.

Need a reminder to get up and stretch your legs? There’s an app for that. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can download the app Human, which gives you regular reminders to get up and move, and helps you be active for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Many fitness trackers have similar functions or allow you to set alarms to remind you to get up and get going.

Photos: iStock/fotokostic (top) and SilviaJansen (bottom).