Sitting more linked to disability in Americans over 60

Health -

Recent studies have found that sitting for an extended length of time is linked to health problems, prompting the American Medical Association to officially recommend American workers sit less.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

Americans over 60 spend around two-thirds of their waking time sedentary, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Every additional hour after nine hours that elderly Americans spend sitting, their risk of not being able to perform daily tasks (walking, bathing) increases by 50%.

"People should find opportunities to replace some of their sitting time with light activity. It's a low-cost strategy to good health." Dorothy Dunlop, University Feinberg School of Medicine

Researchers adjusted for exercise and other factors. For example, there are two people of the same gender both aged 65 with the same health profile. One who is sedentary for 12 hours a day might have a 6% chance of disability, while the other who is sedentary 13 hours a day has a 9% chance.

Other recent studies show that prolonged sitting -- at work, in cars and at home -- contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, low sperm counts and obesity. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the CDC.

"Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems and encouraging workplaces to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce." Patrice Harris, American Medical Association board member

Noting that physical inactivity is estimated to account for 6% of global deaths, the AMA voted on June 18 to take an official stance against extensive sitting.

The AMA notes a recent study showing that sitting accounted for about 6.9% of deaths for about 222,500 Australians aged 45 and older. The study controlled for physical activity, obesity and other health conditions.

The AMA represents 225,000 doctors in the U.S. Its public health recommendations are widely disseminated and influential. Its pending resolution calls for work breaks, standing work stations, and replacing chairs with isometric balls.

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