Move It: Sitting Boosts Your Risk of Chronic Diseases

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An inactive lifestyle may put you at risk for chronic diseases, even if you find time to hit the gym, researchers say.

"If people spend the majority of their time sitting, even with regular periods of exercise, they are still at greater risk for chronic diseases ," said John Thyfault, assistant professor of nutrition and physiology at the University of Missouri. "If people can add some regular movement into their routines throughout the day, they will feel better and be less susceptible to health problems."

In a recent study, Thyfault and colleagues found that people whose lifestyles changed, taking them from high amounts of activity (greater than 10,000 steps a day) to inactivity (fewer than 5,000 steps each day) developed a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes .

By spending less time sitting down, "in the long term, they may not see big changes in the mirror, but they will prevent further weight gain," Thyfault said.

And in a new review article, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers say physical inactivity is the primary cause of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease; and that regular exercise in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle may not be enough to combat these diseases.

The findings agree with a growing body of research that suggests sitting for most of the day can be lethal.

A sedentary lifestyle in America is common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of Americans have inactive lifestyles (they take fewer than 5,000 steps a day) and 75 percent do not meet the weekly exercise recommendations (150 minutes of moderate activity each week, and muscle-strengthening activity twice a week) to maintain good health.

The recent rise of obesity and inactivity is also contributing to a new epidemic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), said Scott Rector, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also at the University of Missouri. The disease, which is the most common chronic liver condition among U.S. adults, occurs when excess fat accumulates in the liver. This change disrupts glucose regulation and contributes to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

"Everyone should try to take at least 10,000 steps a day," Rector said. "It doesn't have to happen all at once, but 500 to 1,000 steps every few hours is a good goal. Small changes can increase the number of steps people take in their daily routines. Changes might include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to a co-worker's office rather than calling, or planning time for short walks throughout the day."

Pass it on: Too much time sitting down may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, even if you exercise.

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Live Science Staff
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