The study followed some 5000 men and women over a 16 year period and found that sitting at work or at home was not associated with increased risk of death even when age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, health, alcohol consumption and diet were taken into consideration. So, according to these authors, sitting may not be as bad for us as we previously thought.
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However, the study sample included only healthy active individuals from a single occupational cohort of white-collar workers, thus limiting generalizations of these results to the general population. Furthermore, the relationship between bad health and sitting time reported by the previous research could be due to low total expenditure of energy and not sitting time per se. The participants in the present study had higher than average energy expenditure, which could perhaps explain the reason for conflicting findings. More research is needed to investigate if prolonged sitting time is associated with increased incidence of diabetes and heart disease and what biological mechanisms may be at play that could explain the previously observed associations between sitting time and bad health outcomes.
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The authors caution the policymakers and clinicians about placing emphasis on sitting behavior as a separate risk factor for premature death independent of physical activity. The bottom line is to keep moving. While sitting may not be bad for fit active people, remember that exercise is still medicine and little activity goes a long way.
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Nina Zisko, PhD Candidate at CERG
Richard M. Pulsford, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Annie R. Britton, Eric J. Brunner, Melvyn Hillsdon. Associations of sitting behaviours with all-cause mortality over a 16-year follow-up: the Whitehall II study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2015; dyv191 DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyv191