Extended sitting found harmful despite regular exercise: study

New medical journal review finds long periods of sitting can be harmful. Regular movement breaks for students and others are recommended.

Christine Tippett 

Life Reporter 

It may be wise to go for a quick walk during your next class to avoid certain long-term health risks, according to a new study.

A review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found sitting for an extended period of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer and death, regardless of regular exercise.

People who sit for long periods of time could be exposing themselves to potential health problems in the future, according to the journal’s review.

Human Resources Management student Meredith Neufeld has around five hours of class a day and feels very stiff afterwards.

“During exam week when I was sitting a lot for studying, I tweaked something in my back,” said Neufeld. “That stayed for a couple of days and my back was all messed up.”

There are short-term risks for being sedentary too long, said Adrian Strupp, a registered massage therapist at Goodlife Fitness. These include depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain.

Strupp recommended taking breaks during class to walk around and stretch. Also at least once an hour would be beneficial.

“There’s a big difference biomechanically between sitting for four hours and sitting for 30 minutes eight times,” said Strupp. “A lot of the pressure gets taken off and you usually sit up straighter when you sit back down.”

Michele Choma, a professor of social work at Humber, thinks it is imperative to give students a break during class but understands why some instructors find it difficult.

Many students would rather leave early than take a break and the majority rules, she said.

“There’s so much pressure to get the content covered but I think you can cover it with breaks,” Choma said. “In fact, I think it can be even more effective because people come back refreshed.”

Choma said she doesn’t think that classes should be made shorter but thinks that all Humber instructors should be made to give student breaks during class.

“If you don’t give students a break you’re putting them at a disadvantage,” said Choma.

After being involved in a workplace accident, Choma said she now appreciates how important it is to keep moving for mind, well-being and the body.

She said instructors should look into ways to keep the students engaged and active by implementing other types of work in the classroom that involve moving around.

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