The average adult spends 50% to 70% of their time prolonged sitting down, either at work, watching television, or using the computer. Most people know that spending too much time in a chair can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain, but new research reveals that a sedentary lifestyle has serious health consequences. Prolonged sitting can increase your risk for the following medical conditions.
1. Metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is characterized by obesity, high blood sugar, raised triglycerides, low HDL levels, good cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Researchers at the University of Leicester conducted a meta-analysis of ten studies investigating the relationship between sedentary behavior and metabolic syndrome.
The various studies looked at television time, total screen time, and prolonged sitting time. The researchers concluded that high amounts of time in sedentary behaviors increase the odds of metabolic syndrome by 73%.
Researchers from University College London tracked 4,000 civil servants to investigate the effects of being inactive during time away from work. After five years, those who spent less than 12 hours a week of their leisure time sitting and more than four hours exercising had a 75% lower obesity risk than those who sat for more than 25 hours a week outside of work and spent less than 90 minutes exercising.
Those who did intermediate amounts of exercise and sitting had a 50% lower obesity risk. The researchers suggest that Who may require high levels of physical activity and low levels of sitting to substantially reduce the risk of becoming obese.
3. Type 2 diabetes
Research published in the journal Diabetologia analyzed the results of 18 studies. It concluded that people who regularly sit for long periods double their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if they exercise regularly. Extended prolonged sitting can cause the cells to become less responsive to insulin, which is a precursor to the disease.
One study found that breaking up prolonged sitting time with two-minute walks every 20 minutes helped maintain glucose control and insulin response. The researchers propose that diabetes prevention programs consider promoting a reduction in sedentary behavior, increased physical activity, and a healthy diet.
4. Heart disease
Scientists from the Medical College of Wisconsin found that the risk of developing heart disease rises by 14% for every hour a day spent sitting. The results were based on a study of 2,031 adults which compared the time spent sitting down with levels of coronary artery calcification, a marker of subclinical heart disease that can increase the risk of a heart attack.
The researchers found no association between coronary artery calcification and the amount of exercise the participants did, suggesting that activity may not counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reviewed 43 studies and found a consistent association between sitting and increased risk for colon and endometrial (uterine) cancers. People who spent the most time sitting had a 24% higher chance of developing colon cancer than those who sat the least.
The colon cancer risk jumped to 54% higher for those who watched the most television. Women who spent the most time seated had a 32% higher risk for endometrial cancer. Those who clocked up the most hours in front of the TV increased their risk by 66%. The risks remained even for ‘active couch potatoes’ who exercised regularly.
A University of Exeter study found that teenagers who prolonged sitting periods have an increased risk for low bone mineral density and develop osteoporosis later in life. Researchers assessed the lifestyles of 359 Spanish adolescents and examined bone mineral content in the femoral neck region of their hips.
They considered the impact of various types of sitting activity, including watching television and playing computer games. The team found that studying at a desk puts girls at the greatest risk for osteoporosis. Using the internet was the activity most associated with low bone density in boys.
7. Kidney disease
A study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases examined the impact of prolonged sitting. Approximately 6000 participants were surveyed about health-related information, including how much time they spent seated. People who sat the least had the lowest risk of developing chronic kidney disease, regardless of whether they exercised regularly or were overweight or obese.
Women who spent less than three hours a day in their chairs were 30% less likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those who sat for more than eight hours a day. The study found that regular exercise was associated with a reduced risk for kidney disease in men but not for women.
8. Mortality from all causes
Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center examined the relationship between sitting time and mortality in 17,013 Canadians aged 18-90. At the start of the study, Who evaluated the participants’ daily sitting time. They were then followed up for twelve years. Over this time, there were 1832 deaths.
The results showed a progressively higher risk of mortality from all causes correlated with higher levels of sitting time, independent of leisure-time physical activity. The link between sitting and mortality continued to hold up when the data was adjusted to take sex, age, smoking status, and body mass index into account.