Prolonged sitting may not cause weight gain, but it is still harmful to health.
My sedentary time is on par with the average person in the United States, which is worrying.
Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Some studies have even associated prolonged sitting with an increased risk of premature death.
Adding insult to injury, it seems that no matter how much exercise I do in the time that I’m not sitting on my bottom, I can’t offset these heath risks. Great.
But as I sit here (ironically) panicking about what I can do to stop my sedentary behavior becoming a health problem, I spot a study that provides some much-needed reprieve. It says that prolonged sitting is unlikely to make me pile on the pounds. Hooray!
Celebration aside, as a writer for Medical News Today, I know that such studies should not be taken at face value. So, let’s have a look at the details.
Prolonged sitting is still harmful
Published in the journal Sports Medicine, the research was a systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 studies that investigated the effects of sedentary behavior on body weight and obesity risk among adults.
Importantly, all studies included in the analysis adjusted their results to account for physical activity, since this can influence weight.
Overall, the team only found “small, inconsistent, and non-significant associations” between sedentary behaviors — such sitting at work or watching TV — and body weight and obesity.
The scientists did identify a slight increase in waist circumference with sedentary behavior: a 0.02-millimeter increase for every 1-hour increase in sitting time per day over 5 years. But don’t panic just yet; the researchers say that this increase is “basically negligible.”
So, what do these findings mean for those of us who spend most of our day warming our chairs?
Put simply, “The results show […] that the harmful effects of too much sitting is probably not caused by weight gain,” explains lead study author Dr. Meredith Peddie, of the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
However, the findings do not suggest that sitting down for long periods is harmless — much to my disappointment.
“[…] our intervention studies clearly show that sitting for long periods increases blood sugar and triglyceride levels,” says Dr. Peddie.