Sitting for long periods 'is bad for your health'

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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Leicester and Loughborough Universities???

    Buddhist monks have been doing sitting mediation for hundreds of years. The stay motionless for hours at a time every single day and there is no evidence to show that they die younger, are at risk of heart disease, or diabetes. I agree we all should exercise but this study is saying that even exercise won't help...utter rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Gratifying to see these results from a well-done retrospective study confirming work in my book on Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. However, we do know why and what will prevent the damage.It is hours of 'uninterrupted' sitting that are the problem.Sitting interrupted every 20min by standing up goes a long way to prevent the damage.So stand up at every TV commercial or from the PC to get water.Simple!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Why is this news? Talk about stating the obvious. Stop eating bad food (that's most of the "Eatwell plate" by the way) and use your muscles a bit and you'll not get unhealthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Comfortable seats should be banned ! Sigh..... what a waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Sitting for long periods increases the risk of death??? Does that mean that if I keep on the move I might live for ever????
    Please tell me these researchers didn't get financed through public money to come up with these conclusions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Top Story

    Sitting - All day not exercising is bad for health

    In other news:

    Bears - Study shows deification patterns centered on woodland area.

    Pope - Religious scholars agree behavior exhibits classic signs of Catholicism.

    Scientists - Real science difficult therefore sets bar low and attempts PhD in "Observed Sedentary Kinetic Pathways and Health Risk Thereof"


  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    I've heard that death is a nasty one to get . Normally fatal

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Increases the risk of death? It's already 100%, we're all going to die some time..!!! LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Who do we waste time listening to scientists?

    There's no harm in sitting down, I dont care what some 'study' has revealed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Some people complain about this study. For some reason they think that this is obvious. The important bit is the amount of time you spend sitting on your backside is important. Although getting to the gym is good, sitting for the rest of the day is not good. This is in fact not obvious (and clearly not obvious to many people)
    Despite what fools may think, this is important research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I'm confused ... 'Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest.'
    I thought LIFE ITSELF had a 100% chance of death.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Once we stopped being hunter gatherers we were doomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    FatPeace clearly misses the whole point of epidemiology/risk factors! And this comments box is too short to explain it properly but essentially risk factors are correlational and not necessarily causal. I wish people wouldn't make uninformed comments based on poor understanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    More bad news for the cycling community...

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Yet another health scare story. I switched off!
    Breathing is bad for me with all the pollutants in the air. Please advise me on how to breathe less so I can combat this?
    I advocate living a lifestyle that makes you smile and brings you happiness. As long as your choice doesn't prevent somebody else living in a way that they choose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Well, this so called research is stating the obvious, isn’t it? Furthermore, the research MAY discourage some people from going to the gym, if sitting all day will harm their health anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    54.Dan81 "Must be a slow news day if you're resorting to your heath scaremongering".
    Repetitive health stories about the UK's new 'obese' pariah class now seem to make up the majority of the Beeb's news output. But don't make the mistake of dimissing them as fluff; they're part of a drip-drip softening-up of the populace to accept the illiberal laws demanded by unaccountable 'concern' groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    After reading this article, I am really concerned about my health. As a cycle courier I spend almost my whole working day sitting down. I used to think I had a healthy occupation, but now I realise I am going to die young.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    No S**T Sherlock!! and how much money did this 'Research' cost the taxpayer. When are these Academics going to do research that actually benifits society instead of lining their pockets so they can publish useless information.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    What a waste of time. But yet again, the crypto facist nanny state, damming you if you do. But there again, damned if you dont. As next weeks futile survey will point out that exercise is bad


Page 5 of 8


More Health stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.