Heart disease and diabetes risk increased by sitting

25 March 2011

Too much sitting increases the risk of heart disease by nearly 50 per cent even if daily exercise requirements are met, an expert has told the Heart Foundation conference (Melbourne, 17-19 March 2011).

Professor Marc Hamilton, a visiting biomedical sciences expert from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, US, has studied the impact on the body of too much sitting and its relationship to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and describes the results as alarming.

"Regularly exercising is not the opposite of being inactive or sitting too much - going for a daily run won’t counteract the effects of hours of chair time", he said.

Professor Hamilton said his recently published study tested the effects of sitting on people who exercise "a fair bit" and were not obese, yet even if their calorie intake was reduced to match their lifestyles, they showed signs of prediabetes after just one day of sitting (Metabolism 2010; online 9 Nov).

"They tested healthy on another day when pottering around or standing for 75 per cent of the day", he said.

People could improve metabolism simply by standing more, he told the Heart Foundation conference.

Doctors need to point out the dangers of a catch-22 situation of being sedentary and becoming so overweight that people felt unhealthy and were "inclined to sit more".

The head of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute’s Physical Activity Laboratory, Professor David Dunstan, suggested that workers with desk roles stand up and move around every half hour and stand during phone calls and meetings.

Other suggestions included a ban on emailing colleagues who were located in the same office.

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