Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not All Sitting Is Bad

He rarely sits like this .... always running around
Remember I wrote about active couch potatoes? And you've also read that sitting can negate some of the benefits of your exercise. Or worse still, some have said that sitting is the new smoking.

Well fret not, it seems that some sitting is not quite as bad as it seems.

Published research seems to suggest that not all sitting is the same. Well, at least sitting on your sofa and watching television is different from sitting at your desk at work.

Researchers studied over 3000 subjects who completed a series of surveys and had the thickness of their carotid artery walls measured with ultrasound (this is a good measure of heart disease risk).

The surveys measured television viewing time (in increments of two hours a day) and sedentary time at work (never, seldom, sometimes, often and always). Levels of physical activity were also measured.

The results showed that the more television the subjects watched, the thicker their artery walls, regardless of how much they exercised.

Surprise surprise, it was different however for workplace sitting. Those who sat more at work seemed to have better arteries, even after factoring in income levels and level of education.

This suggests that the nature of your sitting matters. The researchers mentioned that television watching is often completely uninterrupted and may be directly after high calorie meals like dinner. I guess I'm guilty of this sometimes and what's more, I am snacking while watching TV as well.

Workplace sitting may require the subjects to get up periodically to go to the printer, look for a colleague or going to the pantry etc.

The researchers also suggested potential confounding factors. Those who sat more at work were younger and likely to be employed full time while those who watched more TV seemed to be older, less educated or made less money. Results were adjusted to account for those differences.

I felt that there were some imitations in the study. The study may be more accurate if activity trackers were used instead of using surveys/ questionnaires to measure sedentary time.

Short breaks (from your sedentary sitting) seems to be critical in making a big difference. So whether you work from home or in an office, or work alone or in a group, meet your clients of spend time on the phone, make sure you get up and move every so often.

And if you've been sitting there too long reading this, you know you gotta move.


Diaz KM, Booth JN III et al (2016). Sedentary behaviour And Subclinical Atherosclerosis in African Americans: Cross-sectional Analysis Of The Jackson Heart Study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. DOI: 10.1186/s12966-016-0349-y.

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