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Americans Are Sitting More And Computers, Not TV, Are To Blame

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A new study suggests that Americans are spending too much time sitting in front of their computers, which increases their risk for certain diseases.

Researchers from Washington University examined the different impacts of the sedentary lifestyle most people in the United States are following these days. They reviewed data from the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey.

The team found that the average leisure time spent by Americans using their computers increased from 4.8 percent to 38 percent between 2001 and 2016.

Health experts warn that this trend of inactivity is putting more people at risk of serious medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also increases their chances of dying prematurely.

Spending Too Much Time Sitting

The researchers saw a significant jump in the numbers of people spending too much time in front of computers.

In 2016, almost half of Americans (43 percent) spent two or more hours every day using their devices, and 25 percent of them spent three or more hours every day.

The amount of time spent using computers also increased by as much as an hour across all age groups. Adults used up about 6.4 hours a day sitting down, while teenagers spent 8.2 hours a day.

The team hopes that these findings will help raise the public's awareness on the dangers of having sedentary lifestyle and quickly change habits.

Yin Cao, an assistant professor of surgery at Washington and senior author of the study, mentioned the Department of Health and Human Services' call to increase the amount of activity for Americans.

"[P]eople would benefit from both increasing moderate to vigorous activity and also reducing time spent sitting," Cao said.

Implementing Standing Desks

Some organizations have started implementing standing desks to help limit workers' time spent sitting. However, this might not be enough to curb the negative effects of being sedentary.

Prof. David Rempel, of the University of California, San Francisco, said some safety professionals and furniture makers are pushing for the use of sit-stand workstations to help improve cardiovascular health, but there is no scientific evidence to prove this assertion.

While Rempel recognized that alternating standing and sitting while using a computer may be beneficial to some people, especially those with lower back and neck issues, it does not offer the exercise necessary to stay healthy.

Instead of standing more at work, some health experts suggest making more time for walking breaks. Not only does it help people stay fit and healthy, it also lowers their risk for illnesses.

Here are just some of the health benefits of walking for even as short as 15 minutes a day, according to Reader's Digest:

  • Improves people's moods
  • Helps keep the brain's creative juices flowing
  • Reduces allergic reactions such as sneezing, itching, congestion and runny nose
  • Helps regulate proper metabolism function
  • Extends lifespans by up to seven years
  • Helps people save money on healthcare
  • Reduces wrinkles and other signs of skin aging
  • Improves the average length and quality of sleep
  • Helps people handle stress better
  • Improves brain functions such as cognition, learning, memory, and reading
  • Improves chronic pain management
  • Strengthens bones by increasing their density
  • Improves eyesight
  • Builds stronger relationships with friends and loved ones through workouts
  • Prevents development of certain illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, lung disease, and heart disease

The findings of the Washington University study are featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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