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 96.

    "Researchers find research grants beneficial to financial health of researchers."
    Anyone else waiting for that headline?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Sitting for long periods in front of the TV is certainly bad for your health as you are reminded every 5 minutes that you could/most probably will get cancer or some form of life debilitating disease. Thanks for the constant reminders, it really helps (as I tend to switch off the TV and go out more). :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I don't think this study is actually a waste of time. It should encourage employers to allow more flexibility at the work place, and encourage people to at least take some fresh air. I would also imagine, most of the comments posted here are from people tipping from work, and instead of using their break to put into practice the idea, are just adding their sitting hours to the clock ha ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Completely agree with Ken. This isn't a Daily Mail type scare article. I know lots of people that think hitting the gym every other day cancels out sitting down for 8 hours straight. It doesn't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Where's the study on joint and other damage from jobs that require constant standing, bending, and lifting? All the people I know in retail end up with, at the least, serious leg and feet problems. They go home, do what they have to get done, and collapse in a heap. I can't see that as healthier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Oh well ... I guess a career in IT is out then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I have done some research 100% of those who lived die. So my findings are that living is very dangerous and we should start a multi million pound campaign warning people of this. I also found that getting old is incredibly dangerous and should be avoided at all cost. Can I have my millions now?

    You know, we live then we die, have as much fun as you can in the middle bit. Simple as that.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    And how much money did they spend for so called experts to tell them that!!! anyone with a brain cell could have told them that for free.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Oh just keep taking the happy pills you'll be alright lovey......

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    sitting down takes less energy than doing anything else??? Wow whoever funded this must be proud of their teams achievements. Ground breaking stuff keep up the good work

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    This is an absolutely BRILLIANT study!!
    So, no matter how tired we are after a long day of work, running around, playing sports we can relax in case it damages our health? What an absolute joke. Surely more money should be spent on research into cancer and childrens charities, not feeding us full of grade a government fed rubbish...

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.


  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    @chaywa "It's a shame that standing desks aren't more commonly used in the British workplace."

    I once worked in an office where they tried standing desks. They weren't popular, because standing in one place is little better than sitting down. It's the moving around that matters to your health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Can you imagine if 65 million people went to the gym every day? Britiain would be a race of Superpeople... boring, self-absorbed Superpeople with no other interests than keeping fit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    78. What is glaringly obvious to one person is not glaringly obvious to another. I am well aware that sitting too long at the computer does not help my well being whereas jumping on the bike and going for a ride does help. However it is possible that not everyone is that aware, otherwise why do people sit all day at a job and then collapse in front of the TV?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Elesewhere on this site:

    "A study suggests those who enjoy life the most are more likely to live longer than those who enjoy it the least."

    I enjoy sitting down, drinking. Among other things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Dear Boss,

    I would like to spend much of my day bum-not-on-seat for health reasons.


    Random guy....

    whats that you say? I say thats a bit rude ! I can what with a....what????

    Ah that would be a no then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Best thing I ever did was chuck a company job for becoming self-employed. As an employee you have to stay stuck at your workstation 8+ hours a day, even if nothing's going on. As a self-employed worker, I vary my day just as I vary my diet. My health, including weight and blood sugar, and my stress levels have improved enormously. I recommend it, especially to upcoming school-leavers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    I agree with the below.....what a total waste of time this is..........

    "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."

    Thankyou very much for that.......This must be part of the field of science known as the glaringly obvious!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Isn't this rather obvious? If you don't move around a lot, your system will become clogged in the same way as a drain, sewer or river will become clogged.

    Next you'll be giving us innovative new research that says it's been categorically proved that two plus two equals four.


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