How many hours do you sit each day? If you’re not sure, do a quick tally. For most people, cutting this number in half, or even in quarters, would go a long way toward improving their health.
Sit less, move more. It’s a motto worth repeating, especially as research accumulates showing just how detrimental prolonged sitting is for your body.
Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and premature death are just some of the chronic conditions linked to sitting too much, and a new study hints at why: Being sedentary for long periods of time each day appears to accelerate aging at the cellular level.
Among close to 1,500 older women included in the study, those who sat the longest were, on average, eight years older, biologically speaking, than women who moved around more often.
Too Much Sitting Makes You Age Faster
Your daily lifestyle makes a difference in how fast your cells age – what you eat, the quality of your sleep, whether or not you smoke and, the latest, how long you sit all play a role.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine gave activity trackers to a group of 64- to 95-year-old women and questioned them about their activity. Those who sat for more than 10 hours a day and got less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had shorter telomeres.
Telomeres are caps on the end of DNA strands that are sometimes compared to the plastic caps on the end of shoelaces; they help protect your chromosomes from fraying or sticking together, which would damage their genetic information.
Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter, which is why they’re used as a measure of biological aging. Eventually, the telomeres become so short that the cell can no longer divide and dies. For this reason, telomeres are also sometimes compared to a lit bomb fuse.
In the women who sat for 10-plus hours a day, the telomere shortening was equivalent to about eight years of aging. In other words, too much sitting accelerated the aging process by about eight years. Short telomeres have also been linked with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age does not always match biological age,” lead study author Aladdin Shadyab, Ph.D., UCSD School of Medicine, said in a news release.
Interestingly, women who exercised for at least 30 minutes a day did not have shorter telomere length, even if they also sat for long periods, which suggests the exercise yielded anti-aging effects that may help counteract prolonged sitting.
Learn more about how long you need to exercise for before you enjoy benefits
This is in contrast to previous research, which has found exercise cannot undo the health damage caused by an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
To learn more about the dangers of sitting too much and what you can do about it, read the rest of the article on Mercola.com.