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Sit Happens. Especially In These Sedentary Cities

couch potato

If sitting is the new smoking, as a medical researcher told the Washington Post, then the residents of Lexington, Ky., are in big trouble.

Lexington was deemed America's Most Sedentary City by Men's Health magazine because so many of its residents spend more time watching cable and playing video games instead of moving around or exercising.

By contrast, the city with the fewest couch potatoes was Seattle.

To compile a list of the least active and most active cities, Men's Health looked at a variety of factors: Where and how often people exercise, the percentage of households that watch more than 15 hours of cable a week and buy more than 11 video games a year, as well as the rate of deaths from  deep-vein thrombosis, a blood clot condition tied to inactivity.

According to the magazine's research:

The 10 least active cities: Lexington, Indianapolis, Jackson, Miss., Charleston, W. Va., Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Little Rock, Ark., Nashville, Laredo, Tex., and Birmingham, Ala.

The 10 most active cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, Reno, Portland, Me., Atlanta, Denver, and Minneapolis.

Keep in mind, being sedentary doesn't necessarily mean you don't exercise. It means you have long multi-hour stretches -- for example, sitting at your computer or watching tv -- when you barely move your whole body.

Research has shown that those long hours of  sitting is linked to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, even death.

A study headed by Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina found that men who spent more than 23 hours a week in sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease. And these were men who even exercised regularly, but not enough to make up for all the hours they spent motionless at work or at home.

Toni Yancy, a professor at UCLA's school of public health, says human beings aren't designed to sit around all day. "When we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown," she told NPR's Morning Edition.

The solution isn't exercise alone. It's making sure you stand up and do  something -- stretching, fidgeting, folding laundry, getting a glass of water -- every half-hour or so during the day.

Try these simple tips from  Women's Health magazine to up your activity level:

Don't sit while talking on the phone -- pace or walk.

Walk to a co-worker's office instead of using email.

Stand at your desk instead of always sitting.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Walk on the treadmill while watching tv.

Photo credit: Cris via

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