[ Watch the Video: Sedentary Lifestyle Kills Women Faster ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has added to the growing body of medical evidence indicating that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to significant health problems.
The study, which included 93,000 postmenopausal American women, found that participants with the most waking sedentary time died earlier than the least inactive group of participants – even after accounting for factors such as physical mobility, chronic disease status, demographic factors and fitness level.
Study author Rebecca Seguin noted that habitual exercisers saw the same level of risk as those who did not exercise regularly if they have large amounts of inactivity.
“The assumption has been that if you’re fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day,” said Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences in Cornell University. “In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize.”
The study team discovered that women with over 11 hours of inactivity per day saw a 12 percent increase in untimely death due to any cause compared with the most active group who had four hours or less of sedentary time. The most inactive group also saw a higher risk for death from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cancer by 13, 27 and 21 percent, respectively.
The average women begins to lose muscle mass at age 35, a shift that hastens with menopause. Although regular exercise, particular weight lifting, helps to counteract the muscle loss, the researchers also discovered that inactivity makes this type of body maintenance more difficult.
“In general, a use it or lose it philosophy applies,” Seguin said. “We have a lot of modern conveniences and technologies that, while making us more efficient, also lead to decreased activity and diminished ability to do things. Women need to find ways to remain active.”
She suggested that younger women can adopt “small changes that make a big difference.”
“If you’re in an office, get up and move around frequently,” she said. “If you’re retired and have more idle time, find ways to move around inside and outside the house. Get up between TV programs, take breaks in computer and reading time and be conscious of interrupting prolonged sedentary time.”
The researchers noted that their study included an ethnically diverse set of women between the ages of 50 and 79 who were followed over twelve or more years as part of the national Women’s Health Initiative Study.
“Mothers with older children experienced an average decline of more than 11 hours per week, decreasing from 32 hours per week in 1965 to less than 21 hours in 2010,” the researchers said. “These dramatic declines in physical activity and energy expenditure corresponded with large increases in sedentary behaviors such as watching TV.”
“Mothers with older children reported an average increase in sedentary behaviors of 7 hours per week, from 18 hours in 1965 to 25 hours in 2010; while mothers with young children increased sedentary behaviors by almost 6 hours a week, from 17 hours per week to nearly 23 hours per week,” they added.