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 56.

    Every few weeks there seems to be some new 'scientific' expose on the things that can/do cause a premature death. None of them include the abuse, neglect and poverty of the elderly and the infirm, which seems to be considered just an acceptable 'fact of life'. Many of them are almost secretively 'ware-housed' while the 'system' waits impatiently for them to die.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    What are we supposed to do with this information? Stand up to watch TV? Use our laptops whilst walking around the kitchen? Stop buying chairs? Or is the point that all the time we spend sitting down could be used for exercise?
    I'm slightly confused as to the message they are trying to portray here...

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I swear I read this story a few months back. Must be a slow news day if you're resorting to your heath scaremongering back-up stories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    so sitting down and not excersizing is bad for you....wait no, already knew that

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    They say junk food's bad for you.

    Yet everyone I see eating it is walking about, outside, never sitting down, inside.

    How does that all work out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    "sitting for too long is bad for your health" say scientists from Leicester; who have just spent 4 years carrying out their research - sat in front of a computer ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    As an orthopaedic surgeon I find it astounding that such "research" is done when a little cerebral activity sitting in a comfortable armchair (despite the associated risks) would lead to the same conclusion. Helps boost the old CV of these "researchers" though. Perhaps their next project is to see if sitting down and exercising can be combined - that one's been done before- called cycling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    So wait, you're telling me that if I sit on my behind for the entire day, staring at a screen, i'm more likely to be unhealthy?

    Thank goodness for projects like this, now, if someone can do a test to tell me if smoking is unhealthy..

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Sitting for long periods 'is bad for your health'

    This think this comes under the category, "No S*%t Sherlock"

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    It is sad but most people are so dim they have to be told the obvious. You need to move to remain functional. You are not a tree. Also most companies are so greedy they that we need legislation to ensure a reasonable standard of behaviour. Maybe legislation that enforces 10min breaks within meetings that go on for longer than an hour. Employees should be encouraged to take 2mins walk every hour

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Have to agree with below comments, this "study" is a complete waste of time. How much time, money and effort was spend to determine that sitting down was bad for your health ? But is it the same scientist that also say that exercising is bad for you, eating is bad for you, crossing the road is...... Oh you get the idea.
    Life is for living, everything in moderation !

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Too much exercise can kill think of all those young footballers who have died. Seriously these scientists are wasting money on silly research look for a cure to some disease not whether we sit around too much.

    I could of told you all of this and I was not paid or even looked at it. These scientists need to discover something bigger or get a proper job. Waste of time and money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I always thought that in a desk job you should get up at least once an hour and have a walk. Also this helps when using a computer screen. I also prefer to go to talk to somebody in the same office rather than email or phone. As for spending a long time wathing TV, I cannot remember the last program which was over an hour long I wanted to watch. And of course take a walk in ad breaks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "The study... analysed 18 existing studies" - in other words, it's a lazy data dredge by an agenda-driven Diabetes UK who deliberately ignore the two main risk factors (age and heredity) preferring to blame people's lifestyles. If diabetes were caused by obesity all T2s would be fat and all fat people diabetic - but they're not. People living longer + lowered definitions = higher rates / 'crisis'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    It's revealing just how many people are offended by the, blindingly obvious, conclusions of this study. It just goes to show the depth of laziness in modern society. Nothing about humans is designed for sitting, not our musculoskeletal system, our cardiovascular system nor our nervous system. And, Waofy et al., prevention is ALWAYS better than cure, it's your like that cost the NHS so much

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Plus watching TV all day and eating loads and not doing any walking, look outside the schools with all the parents showing off their new motors, recession and poverty hmm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Standing meetings and walking at lunch are both possibles. But most are seated for the rest of the day - I think the way to sort this out is to move to part-time work being the norm rather than the exception. If we all worked less, say three day weeks, there would be more time for the rest of life - but the huge social and economic change this would require is beyond the human race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    wow really I though sitting down doing nothing was good for your health. Man I feel silly :S

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    In other news, researchers have found that sharks will only attack you if you're wet.


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