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Study: How Harmful Is Too Much Sitting?

Last updated on Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(UNDATED) - Is sitting for long periods of time as bad for you as smoking? One cardiologist says probably not, but he says that sitting around for along time may be a contributor to heart disease.

A report in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation talked about eight years of health data on 84,000 men. It found that men who were sedentary for 5 hours of more outside of work were 34-percent more likely to develop heart failure than men who were more active.

"The statement I make to patients is that some exercise is good. More is better, unless you hurt yourself and can't exercise," said Dr. Dan Gelfman, a cardiologist with St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana.

Many people become more sedentary, at work and at home, as we get older, and Gelfman says it is important to find small pieces of time in both places to get at least some exercise, even if it's just a walk. "If you have a sedentary job, it makes sense to just get up and walk around, at least every hour or every 30 minutes," Gelfman said.

The American Heart Association recommends "brisk" exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days. Gelfman says most doctors define "brisk" as exercising until you break a sweat.

The benefits go beyond your heart. "It helps reduce body fat, it reduces the risk of diabetes and colon cancer. It reduces the risk of breast cancer, and interestingly, it reduces the risk of depression."

But Gelfman also says you should remember that you probably aren't as young as you used to be when you hit the gym, treadmill or basketball court. "Another line I like to use is that the warranty goes out at age 30. That is, if you injure yourself, it takes quite some time to heal, or it may not heal on its own."

The Centers For Disease Control says heart failure contributes to one out of every nine deaths in the U.S.

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