Many are aware of recent research that suggests sitting for too long of a period can cause serious health issues.
The finding is discouraging as many sit for prolonged periods (often working on a computer) as an essential part of a job thereby placing a person in a literal Catch-22.
New research may relieve some stress as investigators discovered office workers can stave off health problems associated with sitting down all day by regularly exercising.
The new UK study, found in the journal BMC Public Health, finds that being physically active may offset some of the deleterious consequences of spending large amounts of time not being active.
The study further emphasizes the importance of physical activity in the promotion and maintenance of health.
The paper does not let “couch potatoes” off the hook as researchers say non-active individuals are putting their health at risk by spending too much time sitting down and not exercising.
Low sedentary (sitting) time is associated with higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels, explain the researchers.
Conversely, sedentary behavior is defined as habitual sitting time. Higher levels of sedentary behavior are generally associated with worse health, whereas higher levels of physical activity are associated with better health.
However, the extent to which the combination of these behaviors influence health is less well-known.
The new research examined the associations of four categories of physical activity and sedentary time compared with markers of diabetes and heart disease.
The researchers used data from the 2008 Health Survey to paint a nationally representative sample of English adults.
Investigators grouped people into the following categories:
- the physically active (those meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity) and low sedentary “busy bees”;
- the physically active and high sedentary “sedentary exercisers”;
- low sedentary “light movers” and physically inactive and high sedentary “couch potatoes”.
the physically inactive (those not meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity) and;
Lead researcher Dr Thomas Yates, from the Leicester Diabetes Centre and the University of Leicester, concluded:
“We demonstrate that in comparison to adults who are physically inactive with high sedentary time, those who are physically active have a more desirable health profile across multiple cardiometabolic markers even when combined with high sedentary time.
In contrast, low sedentary time in the absence of physical activity is associated with higher HDL-cholesterol levels.
“By suggesting that being physically active may offset some of the deleterious consequences of routinely engaging in high levels of sedentary behavior, this study further emphasises the importance of physical activity in the promotion and maintenance of health.
“However, given the observational design, the relative magnitude of effect of physical activity and sedentary behavior on health needs further examination through experimental or intervention level research,” said University of Leicester researcher Kishan Bakrania, who also worked on the study.
She added, “This research is significant because it demonstrates yet again why physical activity and exercise is so important. It shows that people who spend large amounts of time not moving either through work, leisure or lifestyle can counteract some of the negative effects of sedentary behavior by regularly exercising.”