Beware: Sitting too much may shorten your life

When you sit at a computer for more hours than you care to admit every day, this is the kind of headline that will stop you dead in your sedentary tracks:

"Study: The longer you sit, the shorter your life."

The study of 123,216 people (nearly 70,000 women, and 53,000 men) is one of the first to study the direct link between sitting a lot to mortality, though several studies have found links between sitting time and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, USA Today reports. The study participants were followed for 14 years--1993 to 2006.

It's all very troubling for people who sit a good bit of the workday. Here's why: Even after adjusting for risk factors including body mass index (BMI) and smoking, women who spend six hours a day sitting had a 37 percent higher risk of dying compared to those who spend less than three hours in a chair. For men, the risk was 17 percent higher.

Exercise, even a little a day, lowered the mortality risk linked to sitting, though not by a lot. An overwhelmingly sedentary day, it turns out, is risky behavior. For people who sat many hours and did not exercise, the risk of dying rose to 94 percent for women and 48 percent for men . For the record, people were more likely to die of heart disease than cancer, according to the cancer prevention study by the American Cancer Society and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

So if you didn't already need a reminder to get moving during the day, before or after work, you've got it now. Start by fitting in, at the least, a brisk walk either early in the morning or in the evening after work as a way into a daily exercise routine. But consider adopting one or more these exercises you can do at work, as well, as Kaboodle suggests. Here are a few:

  • Trade your desk chair for an exercise ball. Balancing on one of these helps you strengthen your entire core. It may also remind you that you are trying to do good things for yourself and stop you from grabbing carb-y snacks from the office vending machine.
  • Step it up. We've all seen advice to take the stairs instead of an elevator when possible, but you can take that an extra step by bringing a portable stepper to the office and move in step while you read some documents or talk on the phone.
  • Write the alphabet with your feet. "Work through every letter by flexing and pointing your toes and rolling your ankles. You'll feel an increased range of motion in your ankles and you'll carve definition into your calves with every point and flex. Bonus: No one will even know you're working out!"
If you haven't been moving because you just don't like exercise, Shine's Liz Brody has some good tips for you to get started. First, find some kind of movement you like to do. Whether it's walking to your favorite iPod playlist or pedaling on a stationary bike, there's bound to be form of movement you loathe less than another. So take the time to find out what it is.

A few more ways to make sure you change your sedentary ways:

  • Find a friend to exercise with so you don't back out of plans.
  • Do whatever you choose to do first thing in the morning to get it over with.
  • Set a training goal to help you stay on track and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
That's a start.

Have you added up the hours of the day you sit and been surprised by the number? Share how you (plan to) get exercise throughout the day to counter the hours you sit.

[Image: Thinkstock]