Even With Exercise, Lounging Isn't Always Good

Diabetes and heart disease risk greater in those who spend more time sitting

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Staying active is a key part of any healthy lifestyle. By the same token, spending too much time sitting may be harmful to your health.

People who sat for long periods of time may have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that people who spent the most time sitting had more than twice the risk of diabetes and heart disease compared to those who spent the least time sitting, regardless of how much either group exercised.

"Get moving to maintain good health."

For their research, Dr. Emma G. Wilmot, of the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester in the UK, and colleagues reviewed results from 18 past studies.

Those who spent the most time sitting also had an increased risk of heart-related death and death from all causes.

"The average adults spends 50 to 70 percent of their time sitting, so the findings of this study have far reaching implications," said Dr. Wilmot.

"By simply limiting the time that we spend sitting, we may be able to reduce our risk of diabetes, heart disease and death," she said.

Dr. Wilmot also noted that the most consistent links in the study were between sitting and diabetes.

"This is an important message because people with risk factors for diabetes - such as the obese, those of South Asian ethnic origin, or those with a family history of diabetes - may be able to help reduce their future risk of diabetes by limiting time spent sitting," she said.

According to study co-author Professor Stuart Biddle of Loughborough University, "There are many ways we can reduce our sitting time, such as breaking up long periods at the computer at work by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet. We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviors."

The results of this study are important because they warn the public and doctors alike of the dangers of sitting too much, said Professor Melanie Davies of the University of Lecester.

The findings suggest that the link between sitting and the risk of diabetes and heart disease is unaffected by other lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, she said.

The 18 studies involved in this review included a total of 794,577 participants.

Compared to people who spent the least time sitting, those who spent the most time sitting were:

  • 2.12 times more likely to develop diabetes (112 percent increased risk)
  • 2.47 times more likely to develop heart disease (147 percent increased risk)
  • 1.90 times more likely to die of heart-related causes (90 percent increased risk)
  • 1.49 times more likely to die of any cause (49 percent increased risk)

The research was funded by the UK's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The study was published in the November issue of Diabetologia

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 15, 2012
Last Updated:
October 17, 2012