Orthopedists tend to advise against overly sedentary lifestyles. Although overzealous exercise can lead to profound knee pain and possibly to knee osteoarthritis, most orthopedists advise patients to simply ‘stay active’. Two recent studies provide further evidence that a lack of physical activity, characterized by many hours of sitting every day, has disastrous health consequences.
Researchers reported that spending less time in a seated position prevents premature aging and promotes good health, according to a “Well” blog by Gretchen Reynolds published Sept. 17 in the New York Times.
She pointed out that the typical American sits for eight hours or longer daily. This is true even for many people who engage in regular exercise. Whether at work or at home, most activities involve sitting in a chair.
Previous studies have shown that sedentary behavior leaves people more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Years of inactivity also may result in osteoarthritis and other orthopedic conditions, which can cause debilitating pain in the hips and knees. Some patients require knee or hip replacement surgery to regain strength and range of motion in their joints. Sedentary adults are likely to die at a younger age than active people.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine this month published one of the studies cited by Reynolds. Swedish scientists recruited 68-year-old male and female participants. Half of the volunteers engaged in regular exercise programs, and made an effort to spend less time sitting. The other participants were told to carry on with their usual routines.
The scientists monitored the physiological effects. They especially wanted to know the impact of sedentary behavior on telomeres, compound structures attached to the tips of individual strands of DNA. When telomeres begin to decay and become shorter, it is evidence of premature aging in the cells. Illnesses, obesity and other conditions speed this degenerative process. Reynolds noted that “some evidence suggests healthy lifestyles may preserve telomere length, delaying cell aging.”
When the researchers analyzed participants’ blood after six months, they learned that telomeres had lengthened in the active volunteers and become shorter in the control group. The cells of the active group appeared younger.
The study suggested that avoiding the seated position is more important than exercising. Those in the active group who spent the most time standing, rather than sitting, had healthier telemores than the volunteers who worked out the most strenuously.
“Reducing sedentary time had lengthened telomeres, the scientists concluded, while exercising had played little role,” Reynolds reported.
The May issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s journal contained the other recent study regarding the effects of excessive sitting. The lead researcher was Peter Katzmarzyk, a public-health professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
He analyzed survey results regarding the physical activity of Canadians, and compared the data with death records. He wrote that “mortality rates declined at higher levels of standing (rather than sitting).”
It appears that rigorous exercise is not necessarily required to fend off illnesses, diseases and early death. The two studies indicate that simply getting out of the chair, and spending more time erect than in a seated position, produces significant results.
If you have been told that you have knee arthritis or have pain that has persisted, contact Dr Robert Afra, award winning orthopedist.