Did you know prolonged sedentary time could lead to health risks? Sitting for too many hours per day or sitting without a break is known to harm your body, a new study reveals. While the evidence on the adverse effects of prolonged sedentary time continues to increase, further studies are needed to determine the most effective and practical interventions for reducing habitual sitting.
Nurses and other health care professionals now have a new priority: educating patients about the health risks of prolonged sedentary time and making suggestions to reduce and interrupt sitting times. “Nurses have a pivotal role to play in increasing public awareness about the potential adverse effects of high-volume and prolonged uninterrupted sitting,” said study author and Dr Linda Eanes.
Increased health risks have been reported both for high-volume sitting, such as sitting for seven or more hours per day, and for prolonged uninterrupted sitting, such as sitting for 30 minutes or longer without a break. The health risks of prolonged sitting are independent of whether the person participates in recommended physical activity.
The study shows the association between high-volume and prolonged uninterrupted sitting and health risks including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and all-cause mortality. In conjunction with obesity, sedentary time is also linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, and colon cancer.
Immobility reduces stimulation of weight-bearing muscles, leading to decreased activity of an enzyme (lipoprotein lipase) that plays an essential role in lipid metabolism, including the production of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the so-called good cholesterol) as well as uptake of glucose from the blood. In contrast, breaking up sedentary times with frequent standing or slow walking may reduce these metabolic risks, although the optimal levels of standing or walking remain unclear.
Proposed interventions include using a standing desk or taking a frequent walking or standing breaks, as well as the use of a computer or smartphone reminders to take brief physical activity breaks during the day.
While it’s still important to promote regular physical activity, nurses should pay more attention to evaluating total daily sitting time, and to understand the individual, social, occupational, and community/environmental factors that contribute to it.
“Nurses can also actively encourage all patients, regardless of demographics, to balance sedentary behaviour and physical activity simply by taking more frequent standing or walking breaks,” added Dr Eanes.