Sedentary Lifestyle Is Even Worse for You Than You Think

Even I didn't realize how devastating it is for your health to sit in front of your TV.

It turns out that sitting in front of a TV or computer for more than an hour or two a day destroys your health so thoroughly that you can't counterbalance it with a gym workout.

The latest research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology studied the health risk of staring into a screen for entertainment as a factor independent of the amount of exercise you get.

The shocking findings? You can double your risk of heart disease if you spend more than four hours a day with this form of passive entertainment.

This line of scientific inquiry reminds me of some of the earliest research findings on physical activity and cardiovascular risk. One of the important early studies compared two groups of men: postal carriers who go door-to-door and postal clerks who sit and sort mail. This was back in the dark ages, before "fitness" was a craze.

The two groups earned the same salary and shared the same general social status. Guess what? As you could expect, the mail carriers were a healthy bunch and the sorters were a mess.

What that means for you

You've got to be more active. Walk or bike places instead of taking the car or public transportation. Climb the stairs. Set up one of those rebounders in front of your TV set and bounce for half an hour while enjoying your favorite show. A yoga class at lunch? Sounds like fun to me. Stand at your desk at work for an hour or two every day. Jumping rope is invigorating - plus if you live in an apartment you can really annoy the people downstairs. Make a total fool of yourself and learn (or relearn) how to hula hoop. When you shop for groceries, don't take a rolling cart - carry a basket. Park in the most distant possible parking spot at the mall. Chase your cat around the house. Walk the dog. Smash your television (I hear that raises your IQ by 20 points, by the way). Salsa dance class (though I'm rather fond of the foxtrot myself). Take your kids outside to play and try to keep up with them. Join a fitness walking group. Rake the leaves in your yard, don't blow them. Play cards or backgammon instead of flipping on the set (yes, even these pastimes are more active than television). Quit your job and become a mail carrier.

Check out the article from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Or Dr. Lavine's blog on health at Your Body of Knowledge. Better yet - don't read anything more about it. Just get moving.

Ronald Lavine, D.C. blogs about health topics at He has thirty years' experience helping people with complex health problems alleviate pain and restore health.

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