Office 1 Photo by Victor1558Research shows logging long hours on the couch or behind a desk raises the risk of chronic health ills like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, along with premature death—even among those who exercise regularly. In a recent Australian study, people who sat 11 hours or more a day had a 40 percent increased risk of dying over the next three years compared to those who sat for fewer than four hours a day.

In other data, scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA, estimated that if everyone sat no more than three hours a day, the average life span would rise by two years. “There’s a consistent association between sitting and health,” says Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Pennington’s associate executive director for population science. “We’re not designed to be sedentary.”

Sitting or lying for hours at a time inactivates the body’s large muscles, especially those in the legs and back, triggering a cascade of harmful metabolic changes, he says. “Sitting disrupts blood sugar levels, lowers the breakdown of harmful cholesterol and reduces calorie burning,” says Katzmarzyk.

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