Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Exercise can't counter the effects of sitting at your desk

The New York Times reports that a recent study correlated long hours spend sitting down—at a desk, in a car, and on the couch—with the increased risk of heart disease in men.
Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. 
Hey, no big surprise.

But what was truly disturbing was that some of the men who spent long hours sitting also engaged in a regular exercise program. But it didn't reduce their risk of heart disease.

The problem, researchers suspect, may be our bodies are built to spent our days engaged in light exercise—strolling around, doing household chores, even standing up and walking around in the course of sales work. It appears that we weren't built to sit, and sit, and sit.

At a biological level, the problem seems to be that lack of muscle contractions causes our bodies to become insulin resistant and to accumulate higher levels of fatty acids.

"Your muscles, unused for hours at a time, change in subtle fashion, and as a result, your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other diseases can rise," the study concludes.

I'd be curious to see these data parsed by factors like BMI, muscle/fat ratios, cholesterol levels, etc. Were the regular exercisers healthier by those criteria and still equally likely to have heart disease?


Erin said...

Does this study apply only to men, or was it only men who were studied?

The Mysterious Traveler said...

Only men were studied, so it would be most likely to apply to them.

In discussing this with friends, I wondered if it could be as easily done (the study) with women. My informal observation of women in offices and in homes is that they tend to get up from their desks (or the couch) and move around quite a bit more — multi-tasking.