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research round-up
Swedish scientists have suggested that too much sitting
can increase the risk of disease – even if we also exercise
sitting targets
W
e all know exercise can
help prevent conditions
such as obesity, high blood
pressure and cholesterol,
and metabolic syndrome: a combination
of disorders that increase the risk of
developing heart disease and diabetes.
Yet fi ndings of a study published in the
British Journal of Sports Medicine suggest
that, while exercise can reduce the risk
of disease, too much sitting can increase
it – even if we’re moderately or even very
physically active at other times.
paradigm shift
The scientists from the Karolinska
Institute drew on the findings of 12 studies
and are now urging people to rethink the
definition of a sedentary lifestyle. Lead
author Elin Ekblom-Bak says: “Until now,
.COM/ MARCELOPOLEZE
T
O
the expression ‘sedentary behaviour’ has
misleadingly been used as a synonym for
not exercising. Sedentary time should be
OCKPHO
defined as muscular inactivity rather than
©IST
the absence of exercise.” Each hour of sitting watching TV can cancel out the benefits of 30 minutes’ exercise
The researchers point to a 2005
Australian study in which each extra

Sedentary behaviour is a distinct However, one possible mechanism has
hour of sitting and watching TV class of behaviour with specifi c already been proposed in a study of
increased the prevalence of metabolic determinants and effects on disease lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that
syndrome in women by 26 per cent, risk, separate from the behaviour of plays a vital role in our metabolism by
irrespective of the amount of moderate leisure-time exercise breaking down fat into other usable
to vigorous intensity exercise they also

The molecular and physiological forms such as free fatty acids. Although
performed. Meanwhile, the decreased responses in the human body of too based on animals, the 2003 study showed
risk brought about by an extra 30 much sitting are not always the same that LPL activity was signifi cantly lower
minutes of physical activity was 28 per as the responses that follow a bout of in rats with restrained muscular activity
cent – implying that being a couch potato additional physical exercise – indeed, it was down to one-tenth of
can cancel out the benefi ts of exercise.

People already insuffi ciently active the levels seen in rats which were
The scientists therefore propose a will increase their risk even further by allowed to perform ‘non-exercise’
new paradigm of inactivity physiology prolonged sitting time activities such as standing and walking.
based on the following four tenets: Overall, the message is that: “We need

Sitting and limiting levels of ‘non- cause and effect to consider that we are dealing with two
exercise’ activity [eg taking the car to The scientists say much more research distinct behaviours and their effects: the
the shop when we could walk] may into the physiological mechanisms of benefi ts of regular moderate to vigorous-
independently increase the risk of disease sedentary behaviour is needed to intensity physical exercise; and the risks
[ie independent of how much moderate establish a link between muscular of too much sitting and limited ‘non-
to intensive activity we also do] inactivity and the various diseases. exercise’ everyday life activity.”
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