Standing on your two feet could be the key to longer life, as scientists discover it can prevent a person’s DNA from ageing.
A team of Swedish researchers found spending less time sitting down could be more important than exercise in extending a person’s lifespan.
Their findings, published in the British Medical Journal, showed less time on the sofa is strongly linked to the lengthening of telomeres, which sit on the end of chromosomes in cells – DNA storage units in the body.
Telomeres stop chromosomes from fraying, clumping together and ‘scrambling’ genetic code.
Scientists liken their function to the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces, and say that lifespan is linked to their length.
Professor Mai-Lis Hellenius, from Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, warned that standing up for longer might be more important than exercising.
She said: ‘In many countries formal exercise may be increasing, but at the same time people spend more time sitting.
‘There is growing concern that not only low physical activity but probably also sitting and sedentary behaviour is an important and new health hazard of our time.
‘We hypothesise that a reduction in sitting hours is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals.’
Researchers looked at 49 overweight sedentary adults in their late sixties and measured the length of the telomeres in their blood cells.
Half of them had taken part in an exercise programme that lasted six months, while the other half had not.
Their level of physical activity was assessed using a diary and pedometer to measure how many footsteps they had taken each day.
They worked out how long they had spent sitting down through a questionnaire.
The study revealed that although people who did more exercise tended to be healthier, the most important factor for lengthening of telomeres was how much time they spent sitting down.
Scientists found that the less time a person spent sitting, the longer their telomeres, and the greater their chance of living longer.