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Sitting on the Couch for This Long Is Terrible for Your Body, Says Mayo Clinic

Everyone needs to rest every now and then, but no one should spend this long with their feet up.

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, there's never a better time than the present to do something about it. Studies have shown that forgoing any daily exercise and sitting for long periods is ultimately one of the surest ways to gain weight, set yourself on a path to diabetes, and even experience prolonged back and shoulder pain. According to an all-new study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the International Journal of Obesity, you'll actually be shortening your attention span as well.

"Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer," writes Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic.

But given that everyone needs to kick back on the couch every now and then, the question remains: how long is too long to be sitting every day? Laskowski has an answer. "Any extended sitting—such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen—can be harmful," he writes. "An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking."

A new study published last week in the BMC Public Health journal appears to provide supporting evidence: According to health data of nearly 200,000 citizens of England and Scotland studied by researchers at the University of Glasgow, the scientists were able to calculate that obesity and excess body fat are likely responsible for more deaths in those countries since 2014 than smoking.

So if your TV binge sessions are reaching the level of an average American workday—or you're finding yourself glued to your computer for hours at a time—you should take note. If you'd like to take action to be more active every day, here are several terrific ways to do so starting now. And for more news that can improve your life, make sure you're aware of the One Major Side Effect of Walking Every Day, According to a New Study.

And don't miss 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

Remind yourself to stand up every 30 minutes

Photo: Shutterstock

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, standing up every half-hour is a great way to reduce the risks of sitting for too long. The researchers tracked the physical activity of nearly 8,000 adults over the age of 45 and found that those who kept their bouts of sitting to less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death from all causes.

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Stand while you work or watch TV

Man working at standing desk

"If you work at a desk, try a standing desk—or improvise with a high table or counter," advises the Mayo Clinic.

Consider a treadmill desk

Woman running on treadmill

If you can afford it, buying a "walking desk" is an effective way to stay moving. "Position your work surface above a treadmill—with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk—so that you can be in motion throughout the day," advises the Mayo Clinic.

Perform 30-second exercises throughout your day

man doing squats

A paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that doing quick bursts of 30-second exercises throughout the day produces myriad health benefits. "On top of 'move as often as possible and sit less', public health and clinical practice could emphasize simple messages analogous to 'huff and puff regularly,'" the researchers write. At any point in your day, consider performing 30-second rounds of these key exercises:

  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Planks
  • Leg Raises
  • Jumping Rope

To get expert instructions on how to perform them correctly, check out the 30 Best-Ever 30-Second Workout Moves!

And for more ways to get healthier, check out 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more about William
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