The Link Between Sitting and Aging

If you’re one of those people that just can’t sit still like me, don’t fret! That’s not such a bad thing. Too much sitting is bad for you. It’s not just because a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for various illnesses – Even if you exercise, the specific act of sitting for hours on end may result in a huge increase in the risk of heart disease, various cancers and diabetes.

For couch potatoes and office workers who spend eight hours a day sitting in front of computers, this threat of disease should be a rallying cry to stand up! However, a new study has shown that there is yet another danger to sitting too much – it may age you prematurely. Noooooo!

Biological Aging

I often talk about aging in my articles, especially in the context of youth preservation. Usually, the visual signs of aging come in the form of wrinkles and lines, boo. There are many things you can do to preserve a youthful appearance, like ensuring that your skin is hydrated with increased water intake and using quality products, avoid smoking, wearing a minimum of 30+ sunscreen whenever you go out (even on cloudy days!) and getting good quality sleep for 7 – 8 hours a night.

However, there’s another kind of aging, senescence, or biological aging. This kind of aging happens at the cellular level, and over many decades it can trigger several characteristics that you’d find in elderly people, like hearing and hair loss and lower muscle mass.

Senescence is thought to be caused by the depletion of a segment of DNA known as the telomere. Every time your cells divide, the telomeres in their DNA get shorter and shorter until they are depleted, and the cells can no longer multiply. The result of this change is aging, with older people shown to have much shorter telomeres than younger people. Meanwhile, creatures whose cells can repair telomeres throughout their lives, such as lobsters, can live very long life spans, without suffering from the usual symptoms of aging.  

The Telomere Study

In a recent study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, scientists observed over 1500 women between the age of 64 and 95 for seven days. They discovered that, among the women in the study who didn’t get a lot of exercise, those who spent most of their time sitting down had shorter telomeres than women who did not. The telomeres of the women who were more sedentary were shorter by an equivalent of about eight years’ worth of aging. Even though both sets of women didn’t do a lot of exercise, the women who spent a lot of time sitting had aged by eight years compared to those who didn’t spend a lot of time sitting.

When the scientists examined the women in the study who regularly exercised – at least 30 minutes a day by the recommendation of health agencies – they found that there was no correlation between how much time they spent sitting, and how long their telomeres were. This suggests that light to moderate physical activity can prevent telomeres from shortening at all, regardless of whether or not you sit a lot.

The findings of this study show that by sitting a lot and not exercising regularly, you may be prematurely aging yourself by as much as eight years. Conversely, if you exercise regularly, you may be preventing premature aging.

Light Workouts for any Age or Fitness Level

No matter how old or fit you are, you can fight aging with light, regular exercise! Here are some workouts you can do every day to prevent aging, as well as get all the health benefits that come with regular exercise.

·         Walking

Walking every day has many benefits. It can reduce belly fat, help prevent heart disease and diabetes and even improve your mood. It also burns anywhere between 100 and 400 calories per hour, depending on if you’re on an incline, whether you’re carrying something and how fast you’re going. I always find an excuse to get walking outdoors…I need to pick up some kale, buy a gift for a friend or do some Facebook live streaming!

·         Cycling

Whether at the gym or home cycling is a safe, effective workout tool. It doesn’t put too much stress on your joints, and working out with it burns fat and tones legs. Just be sure your home stationary bike doesn’t turn into the clothes hanger…one reason I never got one.

·         Yoga

Yoga is one of the best workouts you can do at any age. It increases flexibility, improves your blood pressure and resting heart rate and can even reduce your stress levels. I make sure to incorporate two yoga sessions into my weekly routine. The more, the better!

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