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How You Spend Leisure Time May Increase Risk of Mortality from Heart Disease

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By now, most of us should be aware that our health benefits from a regular daily dose of exercise. The benefits of physical activity are numerous - it helps lower blood pressure, raises your levels of good cholesterol, strengthens bones, improves balance and flexibility, and helps you lose or maintain a healthy weight (just to name a few). What you may not know is that your leisure time activities - or rather lack of activities - may impact not only your heart health, but your overall risk of dying prematurely as well. Specifically, researchers recently found that the amount of time you spend sitting may also be a detriment to your health even if you are exercising regularly.

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, researchers used survey responses from participants in the American Cancer Society’s 1992 Cancer Prevention II Study to explore the relationship between the amount of time participants spent sitting and overall mortality rates. In all, responses from 123,216 persons (69,776 women and 53,440 men) were examined. At the start of the study, none of the participants had a prior history of heart attack, stroke, cancer or lung diseases. The survey results were then analyzed against participant mortality rates from 1993 through 2006.

Researchers found that the more time participants spent sitting during leisure time, the greater the risk of death. For women, the risk of death was even greater (more than double) that of men who spent leisure time in sitting activities. Women who reported sitting more than six hours a day had a 37 percent increase of death in comparison to women who reported sitting less than three hours a day. Men fared considerably better with an 18 percent increased risk for those who sat more than six hours in comparison to those who spent fewer than three hours a day relaxing on the couch. These percentages were the results for participants who regularly engaged in exercise. For the participants who didn’t exercise and spent more than six hours a day sitting, the risk rose to a dramatic 94 percent for women and 48 percent for men.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.