January 19, 2015

Recent studies have emerged showing that a sedentary lifestyle is physiologically detrimental. We all know that sitting around folded up in an office chair or on a couch feels bad, but it turns out that it is actually directly connected to a shortened life span!

Shocking, I know. Fortunately the antidote is not running marathons or doing Ironman races. It just means standing, and maybe walking.

While we have known for a while that inertia is unhealthy, we haven’t been able to conclusively identify its deleterious consequences until now. Two new studies have come out demonstrating the connection between sitting and aging.

Researchers in Sweden decided to observe the effects of the time a person spends sitting on telomere length. Telomeres are the regions on the end of DNA strands that protect the ends of chromosomes from fraying. They are similar to the plastic tips on shoelaces that protect the laces, and they deteriorate as cells age. Many aspects of unhealthy lifestyles, such as obesity and illness, cause telomeres to shorten, which in turn ages cells prematurely.

So these Swedish scientists compared the effect of spending less time sitting on telomere length. And what they discovered was that the telomeres in people who spent the least time sitting actually grew longer. People who sat less appeared to have actually reverse-aged, or grown younger on a cellular level!

The most exciting part of this study, however, is yet to come. The Swedish scientists found, in addition to the rejuvenating effects of not sitting, that exercise apparently played no part in this change! They found almost no difference between the telomeres of test subjects who had, in lieu of standing, exercised more and those who simply replaced sitting with moderate activity.

We are all inundated constantly by the ever-present message that we must move more, exercise more, spend more hours at the gym. It turns out, however, that, with regards to aging, all we need to do is spend less time seated and more time, standing, wandering, down-dogging, whatever floats your boat.

Dr. James Levine, who invented the treadmill desk and is a champion in the anti-sitting movement, has said that “We are sitting ourselves to death.”

So get up and live~!