Dear Doctor: My job requires me to sit in front of a computer for at least 8 hours a day. When I come home, I usually watch television for a few hours before going to bed. Is being so sedentary bad for me?
Unequivocally, yes. Many studies of many types have found increased death rates among people who sit for prolonged periods. The biggest problem is being sedentary in front of a television.
The average American watches more than 4 hours of television per day. Some studies have found that for every additional 2 hours in front of the television, the risk of diabetes increases 14 to 20 percent. Here’s why: Sitting for prolonged periods decreases insulin sensitivity, meaning your blood sugar rises. Add to that the types of sugary foods that are often eaten while watching television, and you have the creation of a serious health problem. If you’re sedentary throughout the day, exercise can help ease the negative impact, but not completely make up for it.
So for starters, watch less television or, if you do watch television, put an exercise bike in front of the screen. Second, if you have a job in which you sit for long periods, take 3-minute breaks every 30 minutes to stretch out and walk around a little. Every little bit of activity helps.
Robert Ashley, MD, is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Ask the Doctors is a syndicated column first published by Uexpress Syndicate.