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Aug 08, 2014

Staying Active and Reducing Sedentary Time Key to Combating Obesity

Study finds that increasing physical activity and limiting sedentary time is the best combination for obesity prevention.

It’s well established that getting enough physical activity each day is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight and promote good health. But reducing sedentary time may be equally as important, according to a study published in the medical journal, Diabetologia.

This study looked at the combined effect of both physical activity and sedentary time on obesity and cardiovascular risk. Research continues to suggest that too much sedentary time, such as time spent in front of the computer or television, can take a toll on health and increase risk for obesity. And researchers wondered how physical activity and sedentary time interact when it comes to obesity and cardiovascular risk.

A total of 3,670 participants enrolled in this study between 1997 and 1999, completing detailed questionnaires that included questions about physical activity and time spent sitting. Five and 10 years later, researchers collected follow-up information on participants’ health, including information on obesity and key cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

After analysis, researchers found that low levels of physical activity were directly related to increased risk of obesity. Although sedentary time was not significantly associated with obesity risk, researchers also found that individuals with the highest levels of physical activity and lowest levels of sedentary time had the lowest odds of becoming obese. Similarly, individuals with a moderate amount of both physical activity and sitting time had lower cardiovascular risk than those with low physical activity and high sedentary time.

Based on these findings, authors believe that increasing physical activity and limiting sedentary time are both key to reduce risk of obesity. Although physical activity has always been viewed as important for good health, authors stress the role of sedentary time on weight and heart health. In combination, increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time are two key ways that we can prevent obesity and according to authors, neither should be overlooked.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is sedentary or leisure sitting time?
  • Sedentary time, often referred to by experts as leisure sitting time, refers to time spent physically inactive. The most common examples of sedentary time include sitting in front of a computer or desk at work or watching television. Prolonged periods of sedentary time on a regular basis have been shown to have a negative impact on overall health.
  • How does sedentary time affect heart health?
  • Many studies have shown that time spent inactive—sitting or lying down—can have a negative impact on our health, increasing risk for heart disease and diabetes. Experts suggest that limiting or reducing sedentary time can help improve heart health, even if it means simply standing up or walking instead of sitting down for an hour or two a day.
  • How can I reduce sedentary time?
  • Research continues to show that sedentary time increases cardiovascular risk, regardless of how much leisure time activity we may get. To help reduce sedentary time, cut back on time spent watching TV and replace it with some type of activity, like cleaning or going for a quick walk. For individuals who spend most of the day in front of a computer, get up and take a walk every hour, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Standing desks are also becoming increasingly popular, as they help reduce time spent sitting in front of the computer.

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