Sitting has become the new smoking in terms of bad health habits. Researchers are racing to determine how much is too much and, more importantly, what we can do about it.
In a study published last Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Boston researchers analyzed sedentary behaviors in more than 7,200 elderly women who wore accelerometers to measure how often they moved each day for a week. The study found that they spent two-thirds of their waking hours in a sedentary position, but it also found that they didn’t sit for very long without getting up to move around a bit.
“I was kind of surprised to see that study participants spent only 30 percent of their time sitting around for longer than 30 minutes,” said study leader Eric Shiroma, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Of course, they may have made a concerted effort to get up and move around more than usual knowing they were wearing an accelerometer for a study. The researchers couldn’t control for that, nor did they look long-term to see whether excess sitting was linked to poorer health. “That’s what we’re looking at next,” Shiroma said. He admitted that scientists are “just starting to scratch the surface” of research into sedentary lifestyle habits, in an attempt to come up with sensible public health recommendations for limiting sitting like we now have for encouraging exercise.