Sorry, Runners: Sitting Is Just As Bad For You As Smoking

Regular exercise, no matter how hard, doesn’t undo damage of sitting all day

Whether in the New York Times or The Active Times, you’ve probably read it a thousand times in the last year: sitting for hours a day is bad for you.

If you’re a runner, you may also think that proposition doesn’t apply to you. Surely, putting in your daily miles is enough to offset the damage done by sitting at your desk all day, isn’t it?

The answer, as it turns out, is a little more disconcerting than you may have guessed. Recent research suggests that even regular exercise does little to counteract some of the worst effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

From a new story in Runner’s World:

"Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active, case closed," says Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. "Now a consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity. It's a bit like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much."

The data is eye-opening:

A landmark 2009 study that followed 17,000 Canadians for an average of 12 years found that those who spent the most time sitting were significantly more likely to die during study period, regardless of how active they were.

The news from that study wasn’t all bad, though. True, physically active, but highly sedentary participants were 40 percent more likely to die than those who were on their feet all day; but the effect was more pronounced among those who didn’t exercise at all, and the non-exercisers had higher overall mortality rates.

Still, Runner’s World is onto something when it says “sitting is the new smoking.” Even if you run marathons, you might want to invest in a standing desk.

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