Lack of physical activity or sitting for a long time?

Not only is our life more sedentary than that of our grandparents: we spend more and more time in a sitting position. In recent years, many speakers have claimed that this habit can lead to negative health consequences. theRumor detectorFind out what it was.

Several media outlets have echoed these concerns (hereAndhere). SomeOrganismsGo further to compare sitting to smoking: studyHe even discovered 600 newspaper articles, between 2012 and 2016, that triggered this comparison (“Is he sitting on the new smoke?”).

The health effects of sitting

Numerous studies have already investigated this question over the past ten years. for example,British teamin 2012, concluded from a review of 18 studies that “sitting” behaviors were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality from any cause.

otherStudy from 2015And those who looked specifically at watching TV — an activity typically performed while sitting — noted that over a 14-year period, “extended” viewing (defined as an extra two hours per day) was associated with a higher risk of death.

Finally, according toSwedish study on occupational healthPublished in 2021 People who sit constantly at work say they feel less healthy and experience more neck and back pain.

It goes without saying that the effect of sitting depends on the time spent there. The data shows negative consequences of sitting for more than 7 hours a dayCanadian and Australian researcherswho analyzed the most recent scientific literature in 2018.

What is a sedentary lifestyle?

However, as early as 2006, A.JAn international team of researchersHe questioned the fact that different studies on a sedentary lifestyle do not always use the same definitions to describe sitting posture, which complicates the interpretation of results.

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The problem begins with the definition of the word “stable”. The Canadian and Australian researchers quoted above pointed out that sedentary behaviors include not only the sitting position, but all alert behaviors that are characterized by “low energy expenditure.” This is the case, for example, in the case of standing motionless people shown at the exit, for example, which canIt causes a lot of problemsadditional, as already indicated by a 2006 study.

And while the researchers included time spent in front of the television in calculating the hours of sitting, a 2006 article argued that this may skew the results. This view was previously sharedAustralian researcherswho in 2016 attempted to determine whether spending too much time sitting was really responsible for the increased risk of premature death. They noted that watching TV is associated with many less healthy confounding factors, such as snacking.

Danger: sitting or not moving?

These Australian researchers evaluated eight systematic reviews (that is, eight abstracts of studies), based on the so-calledBradford Hill criteria(nine criteria, widely used in epidemiology) to assess whether a causal relationship can be inferred. Their conclusion is that there is indeed a “strong” link between time spent sitting and mortality, in particular because this link has stabilized over time. However, the authors point out that this association is only seen in less active people, which again brings us back to the definition of a “sedentary lifestyle.”

A 2006 article also noted that the relationship between time spent sitting and mortality appeared to depend on the individuals’ level of physical activity. Also, two studiesFrom 2014AndFrom 2015showed that the risks associated with sitting time were higher in people who were not physically active.

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According to these researchers, we must ask ourselves if the fact of sitting really has consequences that are independent of the general lack of physical activity. theAustralian researchersDisagree: They point out that it is possible to be very active in general, while spending a lot of time sitting.

Replace sitting time with active time?

Recently, A.Jstudyconducted in three countries concluded that reducing time spent sitting would not be sufficient to improve health in people who are not completely active. In other words, it will not be enough to replace the sitting time with the standing time: it would be better to replace it with walking or a more vigorous activity.

Study published inscalpelIn 2016, for its part, it concluded that doing 60 to 75 minutes of physical activity a day eliminates the risks posed by sitting for 8 or more hours a day. In other words, according toFirst author of the articleOne hour of physical activity makes up for 8 hours of inactivity.

That’s what the 2006 study was really leaning towards: Instead of recommending that people spend less time sitting, we should encourage them to move more, regardless of activity intensity.


Spending a lot of time sitting is actually associated with an increased risk of death. However, this association is probably due to a lack of physical activity rather than to the situation itself.

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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