Sit Less, Feel Better

Overall health tied to less sitting time and more physical activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Being physically fit is good for your health, but simply limiting time sitting down might also be important, according to the authors of a new study.

This new study looked at a large sample of Australian adults over the age of 45 years old.

The researchers found that those who spent more time sitting were less likely to report having excellent overall health and excellent quality of life than their peers who sat less.

"Use the stairs instead of the elevator for extra activity."

This study, led by Richard R. Rosenkranz, PhD, of the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, set out to explore potential connections between the amount of time spent sitting, physical activity levels, overall health and quality of life.

To do so, Dr. Rosenkranz and colleagues utilized data from the 45 and Up Study, a large study of Australian adults from the state of New South Wales.

The researchers identified 194,545 participants with an average age of 61.6 years old who were entered into the study between February 2006 and December 2008.

Participants completed mailed questionnaires on a variety of demographic factors, including education level, smoking status, weight and current chronic disease. The quality of life and overall health of participants was self-reported using a scale ranging from excellent to poor.

Participants were also assessed using the Active Australia survey, which measures physical activity, and they supplied information on how many hours per day they typically spent sitting down.

Overall, 16.5 percent of the participants reported having excellent overall health, and 25.7 percent reported an excellent quality of life.

After analyzing the data, Dr. Rosenkranz and colleagues found that more physical activity was associated with a greater likelihood of reporting both excellent health and excellent quality of life, while more sitting time was associated with a reduced likelihood of reporting excellent health and quality of life.

The researchers found that the people who reported sitting least (under four hours a day) were 13 percent more likely to report excellent health and 13 percent more likely to report excellent quality of life than those who sat the most (over eight hours a day).

"These findings bolster evidence informing health promotion efforts to increase [physical activity] and decrease sitting time toward the achievement of better population health and the pursuit of successful aging," Dr. Rosenkranz and colleagues concluded.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said that benefiting from being more active doesn't necessarily require making huge changes.

"I have seen a great correlation of people who were sedentary and begin exercising with a positive impact on their health. It doesn't take a massive overhaul to somebody's lifestyle," said Crowell. "It takes consistency in activity and a quality diet."

Crowell told dailyRx News that people can find unique ways to be active that are more motivating to them personally.

"I always encourage my newer clients to to try activities that interest them. Some people have wonderful success by hiking and being in nature. Others have great success by being in the gym exercising," explained Crowell. "In either case when somebody puts them self into a consistent and interesting workout regiment they will see great health benefits."

This study was published by BMC Public Health in November 2013.

Support for this study was provided by a variety of organizations, including The Sax Institute, Cancer Council New South Wales, the National Heart Foundation of Australia, UnitingCare Ageing and the Kansas State University Open Access Publishing Fund.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2014
Last Updated:
January 17, 2014