Want to live longer? Get off your ass and move that body!

Posted by on Apr 18, 2011 in exercise | 4 comments

I was fascinated by an article that appeared in this past weekend’s New York Times about inactivity. In it, a Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. James Levine, who’s been studying the impact of  activity and weight, is quoted as saying that “excessive sitting is a lethal activity.” Even bending over to tie your shoes is better than sitting on your butt all day.

Last Fall, I wrote about inactivity and obesity and after seeing this piece, I wanted to reprise it. Whether it’s your waistline or your life, clearly, nothing is more important than getting up and moving. If you didn’t read it the first time around, I urge you to do so now. Seriously, get off your ass!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ_gP_hFOss&w=640&h=390]

Get up and move? You bet!

According to a newly published study in the advanced online edition of European Heart Journal, taking breaks from long stints at your desk or even while you’re playing couch potato can go a long way towards preventing heart disease and losing some of that waistline bulge. In fact, the researchers say that prolonged periods of being sedentary, even if you regularly participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity, can increase the risk of heart disease. The bottom line? It’s not only the length of time you’re spending at your desk or on your derriere but how often you interrupt that time that counts.

This is the first time that a large, multiethnic population of varying ages has been evaluated to determine how a lack of activity affects certain markers of heart disease, including inflammation, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood fats. Researchers studied 4,757 participants over a period of three years who wore a small device (an accelerometer) that measures both the amount and intensity of activity; this allowed them to collect data on inactivity and breaks in inactivity.

The findings? Irrespective of factors like exercise time, diet and smoking, people who took the most breaks from inactivity (~179 breaks a day) had, on average, a 1.6 inch smaller waist circumference than people who took the least amount of  breaks (~14 breaks per day) and remained inactive for the longest period of time. Moreover, taking breaks from being sedentary appeared to improve blood fats and blood glucose levels as well as C-reactive protein level (CRP, a blood protein that many experts believe, increases heart disease risk because of its role in promoting inflammation).  Another interesting finding was gender-based; even though women tended to be more sedentary overall, they did take more breaks, thereby improving their heart disease risk. This is especially notable since research has shown that not only is heart disease the number one killer of women, but it tends to increase as estrogen levels wane.

Dr. Healy, the study’s lead researcher, suggests that even small changes, standing for as little as one minute at various intervals throughout the day, may help lower heart disease risk and counter the danger of being sedentary for too long. In a work environment, this means, standing up when talking on the phone, walking over to a colleague, using the restroom, and of course, taking the stairs. If you work at home, some of these recommendations are adaptable, such as making a point to take out the garbage, walk outside for a minute or put in a load of laundry.


  1. 4-18-2011

    Thanks for reminding us all about the importance of activity and exercise, Liz. I’m off to the gym!

    • 4-18-2011

      Thanks Candace! Hope that you enjoyed your workout!

  2. 4-18-2011

    Our own Dr. Pat also took a look today at Menopause and Weight Gain – in terms of the health problems that it may cause (http://womensvoicesforchange.org/menopause-and-excess-body-weight-ask-dr-pat.htm), including a delay in menopause. We completely agree with you, Liz, on the importance of activity!

    • 4-18-2011

      Thank you for your comment and for the link!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *