Sitting for long periods 'is bad for your health'

Watching TV Not the best thing to do after a day sitting at your desk

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Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest.

The scientists from Leicester and Loughborough Universities say harm is done even if people also exercise.

The study, published in Diabetologia, analysed 18 existing studies involving almost 800,000 people.

Diabetes UK said anyone who spent a lot of time sitting or lying down would "obviously benefit" from moving more.

The researchers say the opportunities for sedentary behaviour in modern society such as watching TV, sitting in a car or using a computer are "ubiquitous".

Of course, in modern society many people head to the gym for a burst of exercise to redress the balance.

But the research team, led by Dr Emma Wilmot from the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester, says while going to the gym or pool after work is better than heading straight for the sofa, spending a long time sitting down remains bad for you.

Healthy lifestyle?

Each of the studies they assessed used different measures - for example more or less than 14 hours a week watching TV, or self-reported sitting time of less than three hours a day to more than eight.

The researchers say this means it is not possible to give an absolute limit for how much sedentary time is bad for you.

But Dr Emma Wilmot, who led the study, said it was clear that those who sat the most had a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and death than those who sat the least.

Start Quote

We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours”

End Quote Prof Stuart Biddle, Loughborough University

She said: "If a worker sits at their desk all day then goes to the gym, while their colleague heads home to watch TV, then the gym-goer will have better health outcomes.

"But there is still a health risk because of the amount of sitting they do.

"Comparatively, the risk for a waiter who is on their feet all day is going to be a lot lower."

She added: "People convince themselves they are living a healthy lifestyle, doing their 30 minutes of exercise a day.

"But they need to think about the other 23.5 hours."

'Easy change'

The strongest associations in the analysis were between prolonged sitting and diabetes.

There is evidence that being sedentary negatively affects glucose levels and increases insulin resistance - but scientists do not yet know how.

Dr Wilmot said the study's message could help those at high risk of diabetes, such as obese people or those of South Asian ethnic origin, because it was an easy lifestyle change to make.

Prof Stuart Biddle, of Loughborough University, who also worked on the study, said: "There are many ways we can reduce our sitting time, such as breaking up long periods at the computer at work by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet.

"We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours."

Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, said people should not be discouraged from exercising.

He added: "What is clear is that anyone who spends lots of time sitting or lying down would benefit from replacing some of that time by standing or walking.

"Aside from any direct effect reducing the amount of time you spend sitting down may have, getting more physical activity is a great way of helping maintain a healthy weight, which is the best way of minimising your risk of Type 2 diabetes."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    For heaven's sake.

    If people have done everything they want or need to do that involves standing, what are they to do with the rest of their lives: just stand about?

    Who wrote this? A Methodist? They'll be telling us that feeling anything other than unpleasantly chilly, or colder still is bad for us next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Mount computers up on the office walls and do shifts of sitting and standing! Better close House of Commons! House of Lords - well most occupants are nearing "why did God choose them"! Now am going to close laptop and do some sheet ironing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Dont stand, dont sit, dont stay in bed ,dont do sport , dont use high tech screens'mobiles, dont wear high heels and pointed toed shoes, dont eat sugar,fat,salt,take drugs,drink alcohol,drink too much or too little water,coffee, dont sunbathe, and so it goes.....How about some research which assures us that it will be good for everything about us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Drink plenty of water in the office: it forces you to get up from time to time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    This has created within me one of those moments where my brain screams:

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The media are bad at reporting science.

    For sitting down to be bad for you, other factors need to be isolated. This would include weight, height as the most obvious.

    Is this stating that sitting down makes you more likely to be overweight?
    Or that the circulation problems from posture are the issue.

    Could just be that being overweight makes you sit down more...

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    "harm is done even if people also exercise"
    Oh. I've killed myself with my career choice. Never mind, it has practically been exported anyway. Is it too late to retrain in interpretive dance? What's the money like?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    "Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest."

    You mean there's some way of living where the risk of death isn't 100%? What have I been missing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    We need to look at job design.

    When I started working in an office in the 1970s, you had walk across the office to speak to people, collect your typing, fetch a folder etc. By the time I finished, documents were online and we used email and instant messaging.

    Technology has brought huge improvements to working practices, but the cumulative impact on people's health has been largely ignored.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    i read a report last week that stated you should not burn more than 4,000 calories a week in exercise cause its bad for you too? i go to the gym in the morning for an hour, sit on my ass all day in front of PC, sit on my ass commuting for two hours, do a run 2 times a week and circuits once? use your common sense and do what you feel is right, can believe i wasted my time reading the article tbh

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Why do these scientists feel the need to get on a high horse all the time? There's nothing that we can do other than installing treadmills behind every school and office desk.

    They've reached a point where preventative medicine is not an option, so why don't they just get on with finding cures for these diseases rather than lecturing us?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Try earning a living without spending most of your life sat down in front of a computer. No chance. Work is killing us just as effectively as hard manual labor used to kill us. Only the damage it does has changed. So much for all the raving health scares about things you eat, its laughable how stupid it all is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @10 "Placing our laptop on a filling cabinet and having standing meetings..sure! Haha"
    Why is this so crazy? There are desk based options ( or even thick books

    When you sit it's 60 cals/hr ( sleeping =57). Stand and you're up over 100 cals/hr. Over a week that adds up and gets near to gym levels of energy expenditure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It's better to lie down than to sit and to walk than to stand rooted to one spot, common knowledge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I know this research isn't rocket science but it's still worth reminding people. I always try to physically get up and walk to speak to people instead of phoning or emailing, to break up the desk job sitting.
    "Every little helps" as Tesco say...

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Sitting down is bad for you.
    Last week we were told staring at screens is bad for you.

    Anyone else seeing the irony here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I have tried to explain this to colleagues for some time. There is a culture of eating lunch at your desk, long seated meetings as well as being at your desk in our office, not to mention long drives for meetings and no account taken of the lack of opportunity to stretch legs. It's time legislation forced employers to address these issues. Those think this research a waste of money are in denial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Dime bar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Wow you don't say , who'd have thought it...........oh yeah everybody !

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Well, for one thing, I like to EAT during my half hour lunch break! And for another - standing meetings? Putting a laptop on top of a cabinet? Are they insance? My ankles would be like an elephant's after standing that long!


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