You may want to sit down for this. Actually, on second thought, stand up.
We’ve long known that sitting for long stretches of time is bad for your health. In fact, prolonged sitting has shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even death. And as if all that that weren’t scary enough, a new report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that on top of everything else, sitting has detrimental effects on cells at the biological level.
Aladdin Shadyab, a post-doctoral fellow in family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, came to this conclusion after he and his team studied the chromosomes of nearly 1,500 older women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Researchers focused specifically on telomeres, the tips of the tightly packed DNA in every cell. According to TIME, cells lose bits of the telomeres as they divide and age. That means their length can be used to determine the age of a cell, and therefore, a person. To see if physical activity affected aging, researchers compared telomere length to women's time spent exercising.
What they found was startling. Women who didn’t get the recommended daily half hour of exercise and spent 10 or more hours a day sedentary had shorter telomeres than those who spent less time sitting everyday. The amount of shortening added up to an estimated eight years of aging. That means that inactive women who spent more time sitting were about eight years older, on average, than those who were inactive but spent less time sedentary.
“Women who did not meet the physical activity guideline and were sedentary for at least 10 hours a day were biologically older; their cells are aging faster than those of women who were less sedentary,” explains Shadyab.
It’s unclear how much exercise is necessary to combat the effects of sitting on cells, but scientists are certain that it helps. So um, yeah, we’ll see you at the gym later.