In 2015, over 630,000 people died of heart disease, which means it remains the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Many of the main forms of heart disease prevention are well known to the public:
- Stop Smoking
- Reduce Blood Pressure
- Lower Cholesterol
- Lose Weight
- Exercise More
In recent years, another possible means of prevention has been discussed by many medical professionals – avoid spending too much time in the seated position. In general, medical research suggests that:
Too much sitting seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
One of the main reports on this topic comes from the National Health Service in England. In 2012, they put together the research from 8 different studies with a total of almost 800,000 participants. The headline was:
“Having desk job ‘doubles risk’ of heart attack.”
The specific conclusion was that sitting for long periods increases the chance of cardiovascular events by 147% and death from those events by 90%.
The research from the National Health Service is consistent with government sources here in America. Back in 2011, the National Institutes of Health reported that:
“Total sedentary time is detrimentally associated with several cardiovascular risk factors.”
The message is clear – if you are someone who spends 8 to 12 hours in the seated position every day, then you need to take steps to counteract the negative effects of being too sedentary. The general advice from the medical community:
Move more, sit less.
So, if you are someone trapped in a desk job, it is up to you to find ways to move. In general, you should take a short break every half-hour during the day to stand or walk around.
One way to sit less is by switching to a stand-up desk from time to time, but don’t overdo it. Standing all day is no picnic for the heart and can be worse for you than sitting all day. A helpful suggestion from the University of Connecticut is to aim at sitting three times longer than you stand:
“Use an approximately 3:1 ratio of sitting to standing.”
While moving about more often during each day is good for you, it won’t cancel out the effects of sitting most of the day. Exercise is much better for that. A 2016 study by The Lancet indicated that:
“High levels of moderate intensity physical activity (ie, about 60–75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time.”
Their study covered over one million men and women who had to sit for long hours of work every day. It is important to note that the 60 to 75 minutes per day recommendation is much higher than the 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day suggested by the American Heart Association.
Some key phrases in that Lancet quote are “moderate intensity” and “physical activity”. That activity doesn’t have to be an hour of intense, monotonous cardio at the gym. It could be a long brisk walk in the park with your dogs, playing outside with your kids, or an hour of fun sports with your friends.
The point is to find some daily physical activity that you can enjoy. If you do, then you will have taken a major step towards eliminating the increased cardiovascular risk from sitting most of the day.