Those of you who follow our blog posts know we like to focus on the mental and creative benefits of movement. After all, our company tagline is GREAT MINDS MOVE, and it’s true. We started UnSit because we feel so much better MENTALLY when walking as opposed to sitting all day. Those of you who have our WALK-1 Treadmill under your desk have reported much the same in our customer testimonials.
The health and fitness benefits of UnSitting have been well documented. Increased calorie burn helps weight loss and blood sugar control. Walking instead of sitting alleviates back and neck problems. The list goes on and on. Every stand-up desk company on the internet repeats this stuff over and over. But occasionally something new pops up in the literature that gets our attention and this new study sure did.
Sitting quietly for extended periods of time could be hurting your heart! That’s right, a new study finds that the more people sit, the greater the likelihood that they will show signs of injury to their heart muscles.
It’s well known that prolonged sitting is harmful to your health and going to the gym won’t un-do that harm. People who sit over eight hours a day tend to develop diabetes, heart disease and other problems. Exercise will NOT prevent these problems if you don’t stop sitting all day. That much we know.
But now we learn that excessive sitting is associated with heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes progressively weaker and unable to pump enough blood to keep the rest of the body oxygenated and healthy.
Up until now it has been unclear how sitting, which seems to demand so little from the heart, could be linked to heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot respond adequately to exertion.
This caused a group of cardiologists from around the world to wonder about troponins. Troponins are proteins produced by cardiac-muscle cells when they are hurt or dying. A heart attack releases a sudden tsunami of troponins into the bloodstream.
Most cardiologists believe that even slightly elevated troponin levels, lower than those involved in heart attacks, are risky if they persist. Chronically high troponin levels indicate that something is going wrong inside the heart muscle and that cardiac damage is occurring. If the damage is not halted or slowed, it could eventually result in heart failure.
No research, however, had ever examined whether sitting was associated with high troponin levels, until now.
In this new study, published in Circulation, researchers used existing data from the Dallas Heart Study, a large, ongoing examination of cardiac health run by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The study’s participants had completed cardiac testing, given blood samples and health information and worn activity trackers for a week.
The researchers looked at 1,700 of these participants, excluding any who had heart disease or symptoms of heart failure, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
They checked the men’s and women’s blood samples for troponins and the readouts from their activity trackers to see how much or little they had moved most days.
Then they made comparisons.
Many of the study participants turned out to be sitters, defined as being sedentary 10 hours or more on most days. Not surprisingly, those men and women rarely exercised.
Some of the subjects in the study did exercise, usually by walking. They were not exercising a lot, but the more exercise they undertook, the fewer hours they sat. And this little bit of physical activity was associated with relatively normal levels of troponin. The people who moved the most had slightly lower amounts of troponin in their blood.
On the other hand, the people who sat for 10 hours or more had above-average troponin levels in their blood. These levels were not that of someone who had a heart attack but they were high enough to constitute “subclinical cardiac injury,” according to the study’s authors.
The researchers controlled for other factors that could have influenced troponin levels, including age, gender, body mass index and cardiac function but the relationship between prolonged sitting and elevated troponin levels remained.
While exercise was associated with desirable amounts of troponin, sitting was more strongly associated with unhealthy troponin levels.
Dr. James de Lemos, a cardiologist and professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center who oversaw the new study says that, “sedentary behavior is associated with obesity, insulin resistance and fat deposition in the heart, all of which can lead to injury to heart cells. On the other side of the coin is what you are not doing while you are sitting,” adds de Lemos, “you are not moving.”
Dr. de Lemos and his colleagues are conducting a number of follow-up studies to look at whether sitting less, exercising more, or both affect troponin levels and the risk for subsequent heart failure.
For now Dr. de Lemos says, “reducing sedentary behavior is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Focus on both less sitting and more exercise. Take the stairs. Park at the outside of the parking lot. Have walking or standing meetings.”
And of course, we here at UnSit will add: BUY A TREADMILL DESK. Your life may depend on it.