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Increasing exercise may not reduce effects of too much sitting

The best way to counteract the detriments of the modern sedentary lifestyle is to spend less time sitting.

By Stephen Feller
Increasing exercise may not reduce effects of too much sitting
All the sitting people do -- mostly at work, but increasingly in leisure time as well -- is bad for people's health. Photo by Air Images/Shutterstock

LONDON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Researchers found in a review of studies that increasing a person's level of exercise does little to counteract the damaging effects of spending too much time sitting.

Previous research has established that jobs which require people to sit a majority of time, combined with the large amount of leisure time spent sitting, are bad for health. Theories have been put forth that adding exercise to a largely sedentary lifestyle can balance out the effects of sitting for long hours, however the research shows the amount of sitting is the real problem.

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"These findings will be of interest to researchers and practitioners designing new ways to reduce prolonged sitting, because they suggest which strategies may be most fruitful," said Dr. Benjamin Gardner, a researcher at King's College London, in a press release. "However, the findings should also be of interest to anyone looking to improve their health by reducing their own sitting time in their day-to-day lives, as many of these interventions can be adopted on an individual level."

Researchers reviewed 28 studies that examined the effects of 38 interventions in 10,355 participants. Roughly half the interventions -- 20 of the 38 -- were workplace-based, such as offering employees standing desks or other interventions that decreased the amount of time people were sitting. The others offered education, physical activity outside of the workplace, and aimed at reducing activities the generally involve sitting down such as watching television, talking on the phone or reading.

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Of the interventions used in the studies researchers reviewed, 23 of the 38 were deemed promising. Encouraging people to track the amount of time they spent sitting, setting goals that limit the time spent sitting, and using some type of prompt to remind people they were sitting too much were found to be helpful.

While many studies have linked sitting too much to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death, none of them have found effective ways to reduce the effects of too much sitting -- aside from spending less time sitting.

"The importance of this study is not in showing that interventions can work, but in pointing out how they might work," said Stuart Biddle, a researcher at Victoria University. "This is crucial if behavior is to be achieved more efficiently and effectively."

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The study is published in Health Psychology Review.

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