Sitting down for long periods of time isn’t just bad for your metabolism, it can make you age quicker too.
New research has found that sitting down for 10 or more hours a day without regular exercise can make a person’s cells age prematurely.
Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the University of California San Diego study looked at nearly 1,500 women aged between 64 and 95.
It found the cells of women who sit for over 10 hours and do less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day have are biologically eight years older than women who are less sedentary.
The women with biologically older cells had shorter telomeres which are found at the end of DNA strands and help to protect chromosomes from deterioration.
Telomeres are described as acting like the plastic tips on shoelaces and naturally shorten and fray as a cell ages. The shortening of telomeres is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers, while lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity, may also contribute to this shortening.
"Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn't always match biological age," said Dr Aladdin Shadyab, the lead author of the study at the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the university’s School of Medicine.
"We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline," he added. "Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old."
The worst jobs for your health
The worst jobs for your health
1/10 10. Surgical and medical assistants, technologists, and technicians
Overall unhealthiness score: 57.3 What they do: Assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel and perform medical laboratory tests. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 88 2. Exposure to contaminants: 80 3. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 69
2/10 9. Stationary engineers and boiler operators
Overall unhealthiness score: 57.7 What they do: Operate or maintain stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or industrial processes. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 99 2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 89 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 84
3/10 8. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Overall unhealthiness score: 58.2 What they do: Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 97 2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 80 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 74
4/10 7. Histotechnologists and histologic technicians
Overall unhealthiness score: 59.0 What they do: Prepare histologic slides from tissue sections for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 88 2. Exposure to contaminants: 76 3. Exposure to disease and infections: 75
5/10 6. Immigration and customs inspectors
Overall unhealthiness score: 59.3 What they do: Investigate and inspect people, common carriers, goods, and merchandise, arriving in or departing from the US or between states to detect violations of immigration and customs laws and regulations. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 78 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 63 3. Exposure to radiation: 62
6/10 5. Podiatrists
Overall unhealthiness score: 60.2 What they do: Diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the human foot. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 87 2. Exposure to radiation: 69 3. Exposure to contaminants: 67
7/10 4. Veterinarians, veterinary assistants, and laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary technologists and technicians
What they do: Diagnose, treat, or research diseases and injuries of animals and perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 81 2. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 75 3. Exposure to contaminants: 74
8/10 3. Anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and anesthesiologist assistants
Overall unhealthiness score: 62.3 What they do: Administer anesthetics or sedatives during medical procedures, and help patients in recovering from anesthesia. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 94 2. Exposure to contaminants: 80 3. Exposure to radiation: 74
9/10 2. Flight attendants
What they do: Provide personal services to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of airline passengers during flight. Greet passengers, verify tickets, explain use of safety equipment, and serve food or beverages. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 88 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 77 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 69
10/10 1. Dentists, dental surgeons, and dental assistants
Overall unhealthiness score: 65.4 What they do: Examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. May treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. May fit dental appliances or provide preventive care. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 84 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 75 3. Time spent sitting: 67
The women who took part in the study are part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a national study investigating the determinants of chronic diseases in post-menopausal women.
Dr Shadyab said future studies will examine the effects of exercise on telomeres will focus on men and younger populations.
Being sedentary for a number of hours each day has been linked to being overweight and obesity, some forms of cancer, type two diabetes and early death, according to NHS Choices. Research suggests that excessive sitting can slow down the body’s metabolism, which can affect a person’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and to metabolise fat.
The NHS recommends people should exercise for at least 150 minutes a week and reduce the amount of time spent sitting down, whether it is spent at a computer, watching TV, while travelling on a bus or in a car, or doing homework.