Sitting Out of Life

Sitting and other sedentary behaviors are becoming more and more clearly associated with serious health risks. A new study published this week found that the odds of a disability in adults 60 and older goes up by almost half for each hour spent daily in sedentary activities.Energy Expenditure Continuum

Dorothy Dunlop and colleagues used data from 2286 adults over 60 from the National Health and Nutrition Examinations Survey (NHANES), which included physical activity data from accelerometers. People in this sample spent almost nine hours daily being sedentary.

These data demonstrate that the odds of a disability in activities of daily living were more strongly related to sedentary time than to time spent in moderate or vigorous physical activity. In other words, just fitting some moderate or vigorous physical activity into your day might not be enough to overcome the ill effects of extended periods of sitting.

Evidence for the harms of sitting keeps growing, but much work remains to identify the best ways to reduce the risks of sedentary lives and occupations. While much research has gone into the effects of promoting moderate and vigorous physical activity, much less has been done to identify ways to reduce the harm of sedentary time.

The challenge here is to study the impact of interventions and get a firm understanding for the true magnitude of the health effects of sitting.

Settling for a lifestyle that includes both moderate to vigorous physical activity and extended sedentary time is not good enough. Experts have lots of ideas about potential strategies to reduce the harm of sitting time, but the evidence base remains pretty thin. It’s time to fill the gaps.

Click here to read more in the LA Times and here to read more in USA Today. Click here to read the study itself and here to read tips from the American College of Sports Medicine for reducing sedentary behaviors.

Prairie Dogs, photograph © yischon / flickr

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