Your Desk Job Could Be Ageing You By 8 Extra Years
But here’s how to dodge the health risks of staying desk-bound
You know that sitting all day isn’t doing your health any favours. But a new study out of the University of California at San Diego hints that the consequences of staying parked might be scarier than we realised.
In the study, researchers equipped 1,481 older women with accelerometers to measure their movement, and asked them to report how much time they spent sitting each day. Then, they measured the length of the participants’ telomeres, or the caps at the tips of DNA strands that stop chromosomes from deteriorating.
The researchers discovered that people whose accelerometer readings showed they sat for 10 hours or more a day—regardless of how much they reported moving around—had significantly shorter telomeres. But that’s only if they spent the rest of their day sedentary, too. The telomere-shortening effects of sitting weren’t present for people who worked out for half an hour or more each day.
Among those who didn’t exercise much, the most sedentary participants’ telomeres were an average of 170 base pairs shorter than those of the least sedentary. Since they’re expected to lose about 21 base pairs per year with regular ageing, these finds suggest that the least-active subjects’ cells were essentially eight years older.
More research needs to be done to confirm whether sitting will affect guys’ telomeres the same way, too.
Inflammation and oxidative stress—both which can be prevented by physical activity—can shrink telomeres, which likely accounts for the shortened strands seen in the less-active sitters, says lead author Aladdin H. Shadyab, Ph.D.
And it’s not just a quicker ageing you need to worry about with shortened telomeres. It’s also been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and premature death, he says.
If you want to avoid these problems down the line, staying glued to your desk is probably a bad plan. Getting at least two and a half hours of exercise a week can help thwart telomere deterioration, says Shadyab. Research has shown this to be effective in men and younger people, too.
So make sure to break up your workday by walking, running, or hitting the gym. A standing desk can help, too. In fact, here’s how many more calories you burn at a standing desk.