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Sitting at home vs. at work: Study explores which is worse for your heart

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New York — Sitting while watching TV may be more harmful to your cardiovascular health than sitting at work, researchers from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggest.

For about 8.5 years, researchers followed nearly 3,600 participants, who self-reported their time spent sitting at work and at home watching TV, as well as how much of their time they spent exercising.

Participants who logged four or more hours a day of TV watching had a 50% higher risk of a cardiovascular event and death compared with those who watched TV less than two hours a day. In contrast, people who sat the most at work had the same health risks as those who sat the least.

“It may be that most people tend to watch TV for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently,” researcher Keith M. Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia, said in a June 25 press release. “The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”

Even among the participants who sat and watched TV the longest, moderate to vigorous physical activity (e.g., brisk walking and aerobic activities) reduced their risk of heart attack, stroke or death. Further, participants who logged at least 150 minutes of exercise a week had no increased risk of these health outcomes.


“Our findings show that how you spend your time outside of work may matter more when it comes to heart health,” Diaz said in the release. “Even if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, replacing the time you spend sitting at home with strenuous exercise could reduce your risk of heart disease and death. Almost any type of exercise that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster may be beneficial.”

The study was published online June 26 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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