Hard Facts on Hard Drives & Heart Health

If you’re like us and spend much of your day in front of a computer screen, rather than rockin’ it like Lady Gaga or kickin’ it like David Beckham, today’s story may just kick your butt!

How many of us sit in front of a computer for an entire work day, and then go home and park it night after night on the couch watching television or surfing the Web?  But no, we don’t  feel guilty because we religiously squeeze in an hour of cardio at the gym before or after work.  That mitigates all that motionless  sitting, right?  Well, apparently not.  According to  a new study that just makes us “active couch potatoes”.

According to a report published this week in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology,  the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of  a screen can have an such an overwhelming  impact on our health that the exercise we take doesn’t produce much benefit.

What!?!  All our lives we’ve been told that 30 minutes a of brisk physical activity day will improve our health! Unfortunately, it now seems that the concern isn’t how much exercise we get, but how much of our time is spent in sedentary activity and the harm this does to our body.

Uh-oh.

This particular study followed 4,512 middle-aged Scottish Health Survey respondents from 2003 to 2007. It found that those who admitted to spending two or more leisure hours a day sitting in front of a screen had double the risk of a heart attack and other cardiac events compared with those who watched less.

Those who spent four or more hours of recreational time in front of a screen were 50% more likely to die of any cause. The study noted it didn’t matter whether subjects were physically active for several hours a week. Exercise it seems, doesn’t mitigate the risks associated with the high amount of sedentary screen time.

During the study’s follow-up period, 325 individuals died of various causes, and 215 suffered a heart attack or other cardiac event. Even after adjusting for differences in lifestyle, weight, smoking, occupational physical activity and risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other longstanding illnesses,  those who spent four hours or more of their leisure time in front of a screen each day were 50% more likely to die.

Recreational screen time has an “independent, deleterious relationship” with cardiovascular events and death of all causes, the paper concluded, possibly because it induces metabolic changes.

The study focused on recreational screen time because it’s the easiest to curtail, said lead author Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis. However, he encouraged employees who work at computers all day to get up and take breaks and short walks periodically.

That said, SRxA’s Word on Health bloggers will always be here to assist you….when we’re not taking a brisk run around the courtyard!

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