Deep down, we all feel guilty about something we do every day — sitting. We sit at work, school, or at home for nearly eight hours per day, and this increases our risk of dying from disease and shortens our lifespans. Now, researchers at the University of Warwick in England suggest we may need to walk seven miles a day, or spend seven hours on our feet, to reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides (fat in the blood), and lower HDL cholesterol, all adding up to worse risk of heart disease,” said study leader William Tigbe of the University's Warwick Medical School, in a statement.

Read More: Hourly 5-Minute Walks Found To Undo Side Effects Of Prolonged Sitting

This is alarming since the average person's waking life includes sedentary behavior, like watching television, working at a computer or commuting. Previous research has linked prolonged sitting with serious health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, even among those who exercise regularly. However, being healthier can be as simple as decreasing the time spent sitting, and adopting a more active lifestyle for a long time.

In the new study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Tigbe and his colleagues found those who had desk jobs, not walking delivery routes, had a bigger waist circumference of 97 cm compared to 94 cm, and approximately one body mass index (BMI) unit difference. Moreover, desk workers had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease — 2.2 percent compared to 1.6 percent over 10 years.

Specifically, waist circumference increases by two centimeters, and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by 0.2 percent, for every additional hour of sitting more than five hours. LDL "bad" cholesterol increases while HDL cholesterol decreases with each of those additional hours. Overall, sitting too much is significantly linked with a larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides — fat in blood — and lower HDL cholesterol, which together boost heart disease risk.

Interestingly, the researchers found walking more than 15,000 steps per day, or about seven to eight miles, or spending seven hours per day upright was linked with zero risk factors. Fitness trackers like FitBit and Garmin led to the fixation of the 10,000-step challenge, but this fitness trend first originated in Japan in the 1960s. The Tokyo Olympics encouraged locals to think about their own fitness, and shortly after, the manpo-meter was introduced. In Japanese, manpo means 10,000 steps, and this number was selected after research found men who burn at least 2,000 calories per week, or 300 calories a day, by exercising have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taking 10,000 steps a day has been linked to lower blood pressure levels and better cardiovascular fitness.

Tigbe's study tracked a total of 111 participants from Royal Mail in Glasgow via tiny physical activity and position monitor called activPAL, invented by coauthors from Glasgow Caledonian University. The device was strapped to their thigh for seven days, except during activities that risked it being in contact with water, such as bathing or swimming. Postal workers provided blood samples, while researchers measured their weight, height, and blood pressure. Cardiovascular risk was assessed via the PROCAM risk calculator, which takes into account age, sex, family history, blood pressure, and metabolic measures.

Read More: Try This Sit-Stand Formula Every 30 Minutes To Avoid The Health Consequences Of Sitting All Day

These participants were healthy, nonsmokers, with no personal history of heart attack, stroke, coronary disease, heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes. None of the postal workers were on any lipid, blood pressure, or glucose lowering medications.

Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow's School of Medicine suspects we didn't evolve to spend all day sitting, but rather by spending seven to eight hours a day on our feet.

“Our new research supports that idea. The ‘bottom’ line is that if you want to be sure of having no risks of heart disease, you must keep off your bottom!" he said.

Walking seven miles a day could be an impossible feat for some of us. However, there are ways to incorporate walking into our daily routine, that could erase the effects of sitting all day.

Wear A Pedometer

Sporting a pedometer could serve as a way to keep count of your daily steps. The act of clipping on a step counter has been found to inspire people to be healthier, and lose weight. A compilation of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded pedometer users increased their physical activity by about 27 percent, walking about one mile more a day than they did before they started step-counting their routines. On average, users lost a few pounds, and lowered their blood pressure enough to decrease their risk for stroke and heart disease.

Make It Scenic

Walking on your way to or from work, or taking a stroll in a beautiful area, can encourage you to walk more often. A study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology has found a little exercise can still go a long way. Participants who exchanged sitting on the ouch for a total of 30 minutes of walking during the day reduced their risk of dying over three years by 33 percent. Simply two minutes per hour of light activity, such as casual walking, can still provide health benefits.

Make It Productive

The majority of sitting usually takes place at work, school, or home. If you have a desk job, suggest taking meetings on the go. Walking meetings have been shown to boost productivity at work while you're away from your desk. Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of Digital Royalty and Digital Royalty University, believes walking meetings create a better working atmosphere. She and her employees schedule meetings on the go, and report being more focused, efficient and creative.

Source: Tigbe WW, Granat MH, Sattar N et al. Time spent in sedentary posture is associated with waist circumference and cardiovascular risk. International Journal of Obesity. 2017.

See Also:

6 Ways Your Desk Job Is Killing Your Body

5 Ways To Keep Your Desk Job Without Ruining Your Health