Sitting for longer durations can cause coronary artery calcification, which is an early indicator of heart problems.
The study found no association between coronary artery calcification and the amount of exercise a person gets, suggesting that too much sitting might have a greater impact than exercise on this particular measure of heart health. The results suggest that exercise may not entirely counteract the negative effects of a mostly sedentary lifestyle on coronary artery calcium.
Jacquelyn Kulinski, M.D., study’s lead author, said that the study suggests that reducing how much you sit every day may represent a more novel, companion strategy (in addition to exercise) to help reduce your cardiovascular risk.
The research comes on the heels of recent studies linking excess sitting with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and early death. The phenomenon has been dubbed “sitting disease,” though it is a lifestyle risk factor and not a true medical condition.
This study offers a unique perspective on the effects of sedentary behavior because it links sitting with an early marker for heart disease risk, laying the foundation for future studies that could investigate whether changing your habits could potentially reverse the damage before you develop full-blown heart disease.
Analyzing heart scans and physical activity records of more than 2,000 adults living in Dallas, the researchers found each hour of sedentary time per day on average was associated with a 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification burden. The association was independent of exercise activity and other traditional heart disease risk factors.
The study offers a promising message, and reducing the amount of time a person sat by even an hour or two a day could have a significant and positive impact on your future cardiovascular health, Kulinski said.