The health consequences of a sedentary life-style have long been recognized. However, researchers are now looking at the relationship between “postural fixity” – time spent sitting and/or standing – and poor health.
For well over 50 years there has been an awareness that there is a link between the lack of activity and ill health, but recently research has revealed more details about this link. Evidence was presented at the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)Annual Meeting highlighting the close association between sitting and health problems. Here are the major points as published in the ACSM’s July edition of the “Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.”
1) Cross-sectional studies show that TV viewing is associated with obesity, diabetes, impaired glucose uptake, and insulin resistance.
2) These associations remain even after statistically adjusting for moderate-to-vigorous leisure time activity and waist circumference.
3) Accelerometer studies indicate that in adults, on average, 60% of waking hours are spent being sedentary.
4) Individuals who meet the recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and spend the majority of their waking hours in sedentary activities may have compromised health, compared with those who are sufficiently active and sit less.
I don’t think there are many people these days who would be surprised to find out that being sedentary isn’t a healthy lifestyle choice. However, I do think a lot of people will be surprised to find out that exercise – proper exercise – cannot undo the damage caused by sitting too much.
Researchers have preliminary indications that the damage done by sitting can be mitigated by breaking up the time spent sitting. So those folks who sit 60% of the time can reduce the damage by doing something as simple as standing up and stretching for a few moments before getting back into their chair.
The researchers in the ASCM paper state that this is a new area of research and recognize that there is still a lot that the researchers do not know. However, it is their belief that future research will solidify the preliminary findings associating sitting with poor health.
The bottom line is that while we shouldn’t need research to prove to us what we already should know, sitting and being sedentary is bad for us, it never helps to remind people that they need to get up and move if they truly want to be healthy.