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Why the gym isn't enough for the couch potato

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So, you balance out all those hours spent flopped on the couch watching episodes of Glee and House with regular trips to the gym. A new study suggests that your math is way off.

As Roni Caryn Rabin writes on a New York Times health blog, research is building to suggest that time spent in sedentary activity is a major health culprit.

Ms. Rabin reports that a new study appearing in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology this week suggests that "the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of a screen can have such an overwhelming, seemingly irreparable impact on one's health that physical activity doesn't produce much benefit."

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The research followed 4,512 middle-aged Scottish men for about four years and found that those who said they spent two or more leisure hours a day sitting in front of a screen were at double the risk of a heart attack or other cardiac events compared with those who watched less.

When the TV watching or computer time inched up to four or more hours, those men were 50 per cent more likely to die of any cause during the study period.

The kicker: It didn't matter whether the men were physically active for several hours a week - exercise didn't mitigate the risk associated with the high amount of sedentary screen time, writes Ms. Rabin. Reasons may include the effects of being sedentary on lipid metabolism and inflammation, which are big factors in cardiovascular disease and heart disease, respectively.

And yes, they adjusted for differences in weight, smoking, occupational physical activity and risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and other long-standing illnesses.

Did you think your regular workouts were enough?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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