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 136.

    Pretty obvious stuff. What bothers me is that journalists still don't differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. This lazy reporting makes people think that my child has Type 1 diabetes because of his lifestyle. Type 2 is linked to lifestyle. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. Please, BBC, start saying Type 2 Diabetes in articles like this. It's time people understood the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Can we have FACTS in with these health scare stories please and not the usual poor quality media reporting of science.
    What change to the average life expectancy occurs from how much sitting down?
    Bland qualitative statements do not cut he mustard.
    If I get 10 more years, tell me. If I get 2 more days, forget it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    now we know why the newsreaders got rid of the desks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    When I do housekeeping at our hospital my body feels great! When I do switchboard shifts I'm in agony!. Night shift is the worst.... there is no relief for 13 hours. I truly believe that we are meant to be active.... best for our bodies AND our minds. But how do you get that info out to the people that make the decisions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    126. Steve Mansey
    Perhaps this may help MP's "sitting" in the house of commons. Perhaps they may get off their arses and do someting...LOL!
    Have you not seen them bobbing up and down every ten seconds. Unfortunately for us, they are a healthy bunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Those that sit the longest have a higher risk of death, this is confirmed by the number of dead people who cease to move at all and are in fact 'dead'. Quite a few Dr's mentioned, and the odd scientist and yes a well funded charity as well to give it credence, great to see they have quantified that moving about is generally a good idea, well done to everyone involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Oh dear, if only I didn't have to sit down for so long, life would be so much better!
    What a pity then that I have suffered from an entirely preventable and treatable disease since 1965/66 because some people deliberately left me to rot with it. On a number of occasions I could have been treated but those involved sought to protect themselves, their job & their reputations. They all work for us!

  • Comment number 129.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    What about the call-centre workers that can sit upto 11 hours a day? Does this mean that we are producing a generation of diabetics and people with heart disease?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    We could play the national anthem on all media channels every thirty minutes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Perhaps this may help MP's "sitting" in the house of commons. Perhaps they may get off their arses and do someting...LOL!

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    'Everything in moderation', I hear.
    Sound common sense.
    Until you ask what 'Everything in moderation' means. It means 'Only as much as won't kill you'.
    If you die, you've over-done it.
    If you don't, you've got it right.
    What's the proper term for self-justifying arguments like that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    What about disabled people who are in wheelchairs all day, few have opportunities to go out to work never mind the gym...

    I agree and you don't even need to be in a wheelchair to have problems with this. Standing for any length of time if you have arthritis in your legs is both painful and unsuitable to work at a standing desk. Plus even young active people can have diabetis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    112.ggg - "Putting a laptop on a filing cabinet to work standing up = ridiculous suggestion. Is that what these scientists do?"

    More to the point is just ignoring the evidence & carrying on regardless what the "great" British public do...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    This is a great reminder for me. The study is well worth the money for some of us. For those of you who for whom everything is obvious, you can skip the reading and take a walk...

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    What a cheery piece of research. I do a lot of lying down while sleeping and a lot of sitting while entering pointless rubbish into my laptop, at least I'll die comfortably though. If I was a waiter on the other hand, I could run the gauntlet of dropping hot food on myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    What if you have got constipation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I immediately stood up at my desk after reading this article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Cultures emphasized the need to make body movements during the day. The Islamic culture encouraged timely prayers which include a 10 minutes easy yet comprehensive body movements. In addition, the preparation which requires the washing of the different limbs also impose physical activity. For those who go a nearby Universe has to walk 10 or 15 minutes too. Prayers are a net physical benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Collectively we create labour saving devices so we don't have to do physical things. TV remotes - the TV is 10 feet away and we don't want to stand up. I think the thorough research is good to provide facts/figures but unless we change our attitude it will get worse. So much of tech research is still about labour-saving and will be for a long time I think.


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