Sitting May Not Be As Unhealthy As Previously Thought, Says Study

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Bawa_151015A new study has found that sitting may not be as unhealthy as previously thought.

Sitting is typically considered to be an unhealthy activity, with some research suggesting that sitting for more than four hours per day can lower one’s life expectancy and increase the risk of serious health conditions.

Now, a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that much of our previous thinking was wrong. Researchers found that sitting does not increase the risk of death.

Researchers tracked the sitting habits and physical activity levels of 5,132 participants, and analyzed their health data from a 16-year period. The research team looked at the amount of time participants spent sitting at work and at home, as well as how much time was spent walking and participating in other forms of exercise.

The study found that sitting was equally as healthy as standing and that there was no increased risk of death from prolonged periods of sitting. The study took into consideration diet, age, employment status, and other factors that could have an impact on health.

These findings were contrary to previous studies, which found an association between sitting and an increased risk of death. Previous studies suggested prolonged sitting resulted in a 50% increase in death of any cause, as well as an increased risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.

However, researchers of the new study believe several possibilities could explain the different results. In the new study, participants were more physically active and walked for more time each day than in previous studies.

This indicates that remaining stationary, which includes standing as well as sitting, may have negative health impacts and that regular exercise can help offset some of the effects to improve overall health.

In a statement, study co-author Melvyn Hillsdon said, “Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself. Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.”

Hillsdon also questioned the value of standing desks, which are intended to keep workers from sitting too much, saying, “The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations, which employers are increasingly providing to promote healthy working environments.”

The researchers believe that reducing sitting time may have no perceivable health benefit, writing in the study that “policy makers should be cautious about recommending sitting reductions without also recommending increases in physical activity.”

This means that if people are looking to improve their health, then walking or exercising are likely much more effective than simply reducing the amount of time watching TV or sitting at their desks.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Levine, J.A., “What are the risks of sitting too much?”, Mayo Clinic web site, September 4, 2015;
Izadi, E., “Sitting for long periods doesn’t make death more imminent, study suggests,” The Washington Post web site, October 14, 2015;
“Sitting no worse for health than standing, UK study claims,” Medical Xpress web site, October 12, 2015;