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Are You an Exercising Couch Potato?

sitting can be dangerous for you healthIs someone who exercises for 45 minutes five times a week active or sedentary? New research says it depends on how he or she spends the rest of the day.

The New York Times reports that men who spend 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in cars have a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours or less. The big surprise is that many of the men in the first group exercised regularly, but still developed heart problems. In fact, more and more research points to health risks associated with sedentary professions that are not necessarily off-set by a short daily workout. The more hours in a day a person spends sitting, the greater his or her likelihood of dying an earlier death.
Sitting can be dangerous to your health, and the heart isn’t the only part of the body at risk. Sedentary bodies begin to build up resistance to insulin, increasing the risk of diabetes. The hips, spine and shoulders can also also suffer from prolonged sitting.

Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, has a term for people who sit all day at desks yet go to the gym: exercising couch potato. “People tend to view physical activity on a single continuum,” he told Men’s Health. “On the far side, you have a person who exercises a lot; on the other, a person who doesn’t exercise at all. However, they’re not necessarily polar opposites.”

There is some good news. You don’t have to double the time you spend doing cardio or quit your desk job. Low levels of activity, like standing and walking, go a long way to offset the effects of prolonged sitting. If you’re looking for more ways to get moving, check out our tips for how to sneak a workout into your day.

July 19th, 2010