Because many people must sit for long hours at their jobs, they should make sure a greater portion of their leisure time is spent standing, walking or engaging in other movement, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
"Yes, you have to work, but when you go home it's so important you don't go back to sitting in front of the computer or television," Steinbaum said. "After the 8-hour mark, the risks go up exponentially. It's really about what you're doing in your leisure time and making the decision to move."
Several workplaces in Australia are testing sit-stand work stations, van der Ploeg said -- a generally well-received initiative that may be a future option for other offices. "Try ways to break up your sitting and add in more standing or walking where possible," she suggested.
While the study uncovered an association between total sitting hours and death risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was limited by the relatively short follow-up period of less than three years, experts said, which may have obscured undiagnosed health problems among participants that could have led to earlier death. Dr. David Friedman, chief of heart failure services at North Shore Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y., said those who sit longer "tend to be sicker, have obesity issues and cardiovascular problems. Perhaps they're less ambulatory in the first place."
Van der Ploeg acknowledged these limitations and said more studies will need to replicate the findings and focus more on sitting's influence on developing conditions such as diabetes, canc
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