Study: This is what sitting all day can do to your DNA

We know that sitting still and not moving enough is linked to a number of negative health consequences, like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, bone and joint issues, larger waistlines, increased feelings of sadness, and decreased energy.

But, have you ever thought about how sitting too much affects your DNA?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at the relationship between sitting time and telomere length among older adult women. Telomeres are located on the ends of chromosomes to prevent deterioration or fraying—just like the plastic ends on shoelaces.

Telomere length is associated with longevity. So, put simply, having longer telomeres may help you live longer.

Researchers found that women who sat for longer and were inactive generally had shorter telomeres. Specifically, women who spent 10+ hours sitting per day saw a decrease in telomere length of about 170 base pairs, which is about the length of a deck of cards. This loss in length equates to a rough aging effect of about 8 years! Ultimately, the authors concluded that spending numerous hours each day sitting may accelerate DNA aging.

Another study that examined the relationship between telomere length and changes in activity found that reductions in sitting time were associated with telomere lengthening. Recent work by Loprinzi and colleagues also reported that people who exercised a minimum of three times a week were less likely to have shorter telomeres compared to those who didn’t exercise at all. What’s even more interesting is that the relationship between physical activity and telomere length seems to be most pronounced in middle-aged adults, which suggests that it’s never too late to start moving more and sitting less.

Although additional research is needed to confirm these findings, the results certainly reinforce that excessive sitting is bad for you, and physical activity is good.

From the microscopic to the macroscopic level, our bodies need movement to thrive. Now get out there and lengthen those telomeres, would ya?