Quirks & Quarks

Are We Sitting Ducks?

You might want to sit down for this - not.  Excessive sitting has been linked to disease, premature death, mental illness and disability. ...

Are you sitting comfortably? Well, you might not want to be. That's because many researchers say that "sitting is the new smoking." Studies from around the world show that excessive sitting has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, disability, depression, weight gain, and even some cancers. We're seeing more evidence, on almost a daily basis, about the health impacts of too much sitting. But does the evidence really stand up? Lesley Evans Ogden, a freelance science writer in Vancouver, investigates for Quirks.

She spoke first with Dr. Genevieve Healy, a Senior Research Fellow from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Dr. Healy says that even if you go to the gym for a regular workout, those benefits may be undermined if you sit for prolonged periods at your desk, in your car, at your table and on the couch. She calls people like that, "active couch potatoes."

Healy also spoke about a meta-analysis of sitting studies from around the world, which found that people in the highest group of sitting had twice the risk of developing diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, or of dying from cardiovascular disease, and about 1.5 times the risk of dying prematurely, compared to those in the lowest group of sitting. She follows the slogan, "standup, sit less, move more."

Dr. Mark Tremblay is the Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity research group at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. He says changing your posture is the key - interrupt your sitting, even just to stand or walk around a bit. And he says there may be public health benefits by just getting people to be less sedentary, without an increase in exercise, though pointing out that this new research doesn't contradict the wealth of knowledge on the health benefits of exercise.

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