By: Carol E. Torgan, Ph.D., FACSM

Are you sitting down right now? If so, you could be raising your triglycerides and lowering your life expectancy.

Mounting research is proving that sloth is indeed one of the seven deadly sins. In particular, the more time you spend sitting on your rear, the higher your levels of triglycerides and other risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes, and, um, mortality.

Our Bodies Are Designed to Move

Regular physical activity lowers our risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon and breast cancers. Now scientists in the intriguing new field of “inactivity physiology” are starting to tease out important distinctions among the benefits and risks of being physically active, inactive, and just plain sedentary.

It turns out that triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, are a great indicator of the nuances that occur within our bodies in response to activity—or a complete lack thereof. When your muscles are actively working, even if only to keep you standing up and moseying about, enzymes such as lipoprotein lipase (LPL) are revved up. The LPL cues your active muscles to take in triglycerides from your bloodstream. When you sit, you hit the pause button on your LPL, and levels of triglycerides rise in your bloodstream, where they can wreak havoc.

A number of scientific studies are now uncovering a relationship between sitting time and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes such as elevated blood pressure, higher blood glucose levels, and lower levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, in addition to higher blood levels of triglycerides. Research is also showing a relationship between sitting time and mortality. The real kicker is that these relationships even occur in individuals who are physically active.

The “Bottom” Line

Prolonged sitting on your bottom, whether at your office, in front of your TV, or in your car, adversely affects your health. We all need to make an extra effort to get up and move around and not sit for long periods of time. Frequent movement revs up numerous tissues in your body, including your heart and skeletal muscles.

Here are eight simple ways to stand up for your health:

  • Walk down the hall to deliver a message, rather than texting, e-mailing, or calling.
  • Have a walking meeting and save yourself the trouble of booking a conference room.
  • Stand while you work when possible—for example, while talking on the phone.
  • Knock out a few sit-ups or push-ups while you watch TV.
  • Schedule short “take 10” breaks among your appointments on your work calendar.
  • Take frequent breaks when you go on long trips, whether by plane, train, or car.
  • Stock your living room or office with fitness equipment such as dumbbells and yoga mats.
  • If you have the room and money, consider a treadmill desk. Or get a dog, which is a treadmill with fur.
Copyright: 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Reference: Cholesterol section on Better Medicine

Did You Know?

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To lower triglyceride levels, substitute carbohydrates for fats in your diet.