Study suggests how you can keep sitting from killing you

In the last few years researchers have been telling us that sitting is very, very bad for us, but a new study suggests that the solution to that problem might not be that difficult.

'It doesn't matter the intensity of the walk break'

Prolonged sitting causes high levels of insulin, sugar and fat in the blood. (Shutterstock)

In the last few years researchers have been telling us that sitting is very, very bad for us, but a new study suggests that the solution to that problem might not be that difficult.

The study was led by Travis Saunders, a kinesiology professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, with participation from the University of Guelph and the University of Otago in New Zealand. It reviewed the findings of 44 recent studies on the health effects of sitting.

"What we did was summarize all the research that's been done to date," said Saunders.

"We did what's called a systematic review, where you identify every study that's been done on this topic, and then analyze their results to really say 'OK, here are the really important key findings.'"

Vigorous exercise is good, says Travis Saunders, but it may not be enough to save you from the perils of sitting. (Submitted by Travis Saunders)

The results were just published in the latest issue of the journal Sports Medicine.

The studies reviewed consistently found higher levels of insulin and blood sugar after two to three hours of sitting. That can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

"The really good news is that just getting up for a one or two minute walk every half hour seems to prevent those really negative changes," said Saunders.

"It doesn't matter the intensity of the walk break, or the activity break, just that you do some kind of walk."

Higher fat levels in blood

Saunders believes even getting your body muscles working just a little bit wakes them up and gets them processing blood sugars.

It wasn't all good news. Saunders and the other researchers found evidence that too much sitting will increase fat levels in the blood, something that some studies had previously seen and others hadn't.

"It just depends on when you look," said Saunders.

"If you sit today, the amount of fat in your blood tonight is probably not going to change. But tomorrow, the amount of fat in your blood is going to be higher because you were sitting today."

Get up and move

Saunders said it is important to understand how sitting affects health, because not only are more people moving into traditionally sedentary jobs, but some traditionally active jobs are also becoming more sedentary.

He gives farming as an example.

"Sitting in the tractor, or having tractors that are controlled by a computer so you're not doing as much, or just sitting in the office. It's becoming more of an administrative job than it used to be," he said.

Even traditionally active occupations are becoming more sedentary. (Government of P.E.I.)

"There's an awful lot of jobs that people spend sitting at a desk for most of the day."

Saunders said sitting for long periods is harmful even for people with otherwise active lifestyles. It causes spikes in insulin, sugars and fats in the blood, and those in themselves can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Which is not to say that daily workout isn't good for you, he adds, but a daily workout without prolonged periods of sitting is better still.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Chapin


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