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 156.


    You could give all those up as they are pleasure traps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @136. Please, BBC, start saying Type 2 Diabetes in articles like this. It's time people understood the difference.

    I cannot agree more but sadly the standard of journalistic research doesn't appear to be up to it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    If God had meant for us to stand, he wouldn't have birthed the person who invented chairs, or have given us buttocks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Why is this being debated instead of the fact that the NHS in its present form is being dismantled and private companies are lining up to cream off the most lucrative parts of our healthcare? Don't believe me? search Jim Easton Resigning to Join Care UK in HSJ. That's real news. By the time we vote again we'll have USA style healthcare, thanks to this govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    I'll bet there's a connection to sitting and Hemorrhoids as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    "Increases the risk of ... death". That one always gets me! Does the research suggest chances of immortality are increased by standing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Everything I like is bad for me, i.e. wine, smoking, butter, full cream milk, steak and chips etc., etc., should I shoot myself now - any suggestions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    142. You
    Your comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    Whoops the mods have swooped. I do hope they were not sitting down at the time of their coming to a decision. I would hate for anything to affect their health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    It's not that these scientific edicts aren't correct it's the whole 'state the bleeding obviousness' of it I can live without. Are researchers really paid and validated by research that tells us that being fat is bad for us and being sedentary isn't as healthy as being active ? If i went back to my employers with a report that showed making money was better than not I'd get my marching orders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Oh dear, sitting is my hobby. Can't afford much else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I work in an office and try to stand wherever possible - especially as I have an hours drive home too.

    So pleased BEEB that you differentiate and emphasise that its Type 2 diabetes thats a risk.

    As somebody with Type 1 its important that the differences are explained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Many people have little choice but to sit all day. Forced to work long hours to fund our expensive lives. Even basic bills, without luxuries, takes a full time job for a lot of people.

    I worked in an office once. They used to time how long it took you to go to the toilet and present you with a sheet of evidence if they thought it took you too long. I wonder if I could have walked around more.

  • Comment number 144.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I am, as usual, reading a lot of hot air on HYS. People moaning saying we need to go to the gym more.

    The study suggest sitting for long periods of time is the problem. Even if you go to the gym 4/5 times a week after work, you are still at risk. What do people who work in jobs that don't allow you to walk around every 30 mins do? Or haven't you thought that far outside the tiny box in your head.

  • Comment number 142.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Two words spring 2 mind, waffle & versatile.
    They do have 2 be seen 2 be doing something don't they?
    Sit 'em on pedestals & eventually they'll have to get off 2 enlighten the rest of us ignorant plebs. Next thing you know they'll be trying 2 frighten us 2 death, only that's been tried many times before in numerous different ways.
    This is good for you, that's bad for you - until the next day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I have known this for years. However, many employers don't give a monkey's for the health of their employees, monitoring how long people spend in the toilets and moaning if its more than 10 minutes a day, etc. The office job is one of the prime causes of ill health in this country, but don't expect the Government to act on it soon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    For most people there needs to be more than standing involved. Get down the gym, cut your calories to 1500 per day and drop a stone or two.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    For those of us in middle age or older, it gets more tempting to sit. I am not over weight, and I get my 30 minutes of exercise regularly. I work with computers and have lots of meetings. This helps me understand why I was starting to see insulin resistance in my blood results. With a few minor adjustments, I hope to change my results and my long term outlook for health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    128.Poly - "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?"

    We're doing that anyway, with or without call centre staff.....


Page 1 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.