Overturning conventional wisdom, a new study has found that sitting for long, either at home or at work, is not associated with an increased risk of an early death, especially if you are otherwise physically active.
These findings challenge previous research suggesting that the act of sitting itself causes harm even when people routinely walk a lot or do other exercise.
“Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself,” said Melvyn Hillsdon from the University of Exeter in England.
The study followed more than 5000 participants – 3,720 men and 1,412 women — for 16 years, making it one of the longest follow-up studies in this area of research.
The study participants provided information on total sitting time and on four other specific types of sitting behaviour – sitting at work, during leisure time, while watching TV, and sitting during leisure time excluding TV – as well as details on daily walking and time spent engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.
The study showed that over the 16 year follow-up period none of these five sitting measures influenced mortality risk.
“Our findings suggest that reducing sitting time might not be quite as important for mortality risk as previously publicised and that encouraging people to be more active should still be a public health priority,” lead study author Richard Pulsford from the University of Exeter, pointed out.
“The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations, which employers are increasingly providing to promote healthy working environments,” Hillsdon said.
The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.