Study shows why super sitters need to review their inactivity

How many times have your been told that sitting for too long is bad for your health? Yet studies involving adults in the US found they typically sat for about six-and-a-half hours a day.

Here’s what we know. Sitting for hours can affect your metabolic health and contribute to high blood sugar and high cholesterol, even in people who seem to be healthy.

We sit a lot – whether that be at a desk (or the kitchen table for those working from home), in front of the telly, while we’re reading and eating. And many of you are more inactive now than in 2019, according to data.

The authors of a new study say that “relentless sitting” squashes metabolic health, that “every waking hour spent in sedentary postures (sitting or lying) increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes”.

In a report in the AFR, they explain it like this.

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When you sit, the muscles in your legs, which are the largest in your body and are usually active and hungry, barely contract, so require minimal fuel and slurp little sugar from your bloodstream. They also do not release biochemical substances that would normally help break down fatty acids in the blood. So … blood sugar and cholesterol build up in your bloodstream.

The study, which was published in The American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, saw researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm investigate what would happen if office workers agreed to break up their sitting time over a three-week period.

Half the volunteers continued with their normal lives, as a control, and the rest downloaded a smartphone app that alerted them every 30 minutes during the workday to rise and be active for three minutes. They had to take a minimum of 15 steps before the app recorded their movement as an activity break.

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The control group displayed continuing problems with insulin resistance, blood sugar control and cholesterol levels; those who moved returned lower fasting blood sugar levels in the morning, meaning their bodies better controlled blood sugar during the night. Their blood sugar also stabilised during the day, with fewer spikes and dips than in the control group. “The improvements were slight, but might mean the difference, over time, between progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes or not,” the researchers said.

Those who were most active improved their metabolisms the most.

Dr Erik Näslund, a professor at the Karolinska Institute who oversaw the study, offered the following advice to anyone concerned about over-sitting.

Read more: Take more steps for a longer life

Download an app or set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to rise every half-hour. Walk for a few minutes. Go to the bathroom, get a coffee. Take the stairs, get off the bus a stop early.

How many hours a day do you sit or lie? Do you think you could improve your health if you moved more? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Janelle Ward