According to a recent study from a team of researchers at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto in Canada, prolonged sedentary time is associated with adverse health outcomes regardless of physical activity.
“More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary—sitting, watching television, or working at a computer,” said Dr. David Alter, Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehab, University Health Network (UHN), and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in a recent news release “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”
In their study entitled “Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, published in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the research team led by Dr. Davit Alter conducted a meta-analysis of 47 retrieved studies. The included studies assessed sedentary behavior in adults, adjusted for physical activity and correlated to at least one disease outcome, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (14 studies), cancer (14 studies), and all-cause mortality (13 studies). The researchers found that a prolonged sedentary lifestyle was related with serious adverse health outcomes, even in people who have regular psychical activity.
Regarding the findings, co-author Dr. Avi Biswas said in the news release “The findings suggest that the health risk of sitting too much is less pronounced when physical activity is increased. We need further research to better understand how much physical activity is needed to offset the health risks associated with long sedentary time and optimize our health.”
“Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival,” said Dr. Alter. “It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours.”
These findings can greatly impact overweight and obese individuals, and those with co-morbidities that usually lead to sedentary behaviour, “The first step is to monitor sitting times—once we start counting, we’re more likely to change our behaviour,” said Dr. Alter. “Next is setting achievable goals and finding opportunities to incorporate greater physical activity—and less time sitting— into your daily life. For example, at work, stand up or move for one to three minutes every half hour; and when watching television, stand or exercise during commercials.”