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Sitting for More Than an Hour is Terrible for Your Health

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Get off your butt. It might literally be killing you.

Evidence is mounting that sitting at work can have significant consequences for your health—even if you’re only sitting for as little as an hour at a time. Steve Lohr wrote in The New York Times on Saturday that recent studies published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine and in a European journal dedicated to the study of diabetes both indicate sitting can be detrimental even for those who are active outside of work.

The research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicated that even somebody who exercises everyday is just as at risk as somebody who doesn’t.

Looking at television viewing habits (which requires about the same amount of physical activity as sitting at a desk for eight hours) the study concluded that somebody who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not. The evidence holds for a person who exercises regularly but also watches six hours of television per day.

According to Lohr:

Scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good ( HDL ) cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes .

Sedentary desk jobs beget sedentary lifestyles. Desks that allow workers to remain active during the day could be a remedy to the problem. Lohr notes that several companies (like Chevron, Intel, Allstate, Boeing, Apple and Google) have all implemented unique solutions like treadmill desks or standing desks .

Citing research from the Mayo Clinic that showed sitting for more than four hours a day increases your risk of death by nearly 50 percent and increases your risk of heart problems by 125 percent, a recent article in Wired advocated that everyone invest in standing desks. Wired’s article showed off two standing desk solutions , including a DIY solution from Ikea that costs only $22 to implement.

Do you know any federal offices or agencies offering solutions to limit all-day sitting?

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Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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