Life Wellbeing How your sedentary habits could have dire health consequences

How your sedentary habits could have dire health consequences

binge TV
Binge TV has been singled out as one common sedentary behaviour. Photo: Getty
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Binge-watching TV shows increases the risk of dying from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and kidney disease, according to new research.

The study, published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, followed almost 9000 Australian adults and found that for every additional hour spent watching TV each day, risk of severe inflammation increased by 12 per cent.

However, experts in this field suggested that watching TV was just one example of the many common sedentary tasks in everyday life.

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute senior researcher and lead author Dr Megan Grace said chronic disease prevention should address reducing sitting time in addition to promoting physical activity.

“With on-demand television, many of us easily spend several hours a day binge-watching our favourite shows,” Dr Grace said.

Paul Gardiner, a University of Queensland research fellow focused on sedentary behaviour, said these findings added to the body of research on “prolonged sitting”.

Sitting has previously been associated with an increased likelihood of developing Type two diabetes, certain types of cancer (breast and colon) and cardiovascular disease.

sedentary lifestyle standing desk
Standing desks are one method used to reduce sitting time. Photo: Getty

“If standing desks aren’t possible for whatever reason in your workplace, find the opportunity to stand up more,” Dr Gardiner said.

“Remove the bin from under desk to force you to get up to walk to the bin, go to the toilet on a different floor, drink more water and take more toilet breaks, stand up when on the phone.”

Alliance for Research in Exercise Nutrition and Activity’s Professor Timothy Olds agreed the study ignored the fact that sedentary behaviour encompasses a range of different activities.

In addition to watching TV, people sit while driving, riding public transport, eating, reading and while on the computer, totalling about 11 hours each day, he said.

“We know from epidemiological studies that some of these sitting activities are strongly associated with poorer physical and mental health, and some are actually associated with better physical and mental health,” Professor Olds said.

“TV comes up particularly badly … On the other hand, reading and social activities perform well.

“So not all sitting is bad.”

He added that often people tend to snack more while watching TV.

“We also know that when people do relatively large amounts of physical activity – say an hour to 90 minutes a day – the effects of even very large amounts of sitting are almost zero,” the professor said.

“In our work with kids, we find that to get the same health benefits, you could increase your physical activity by 15 minutes a day or reduce your sitting by somewhere between one and a half and 17 hours a day. Which is easier?”

Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, a senior research fellow at the Charles Perkins Centre, said there was some evidence that television viewing should be treated separately to sitting.

“The reported associations between TV viewing and adverse health outcomes are due to other reasons, all unrelated to sitting,” he said.

“Lower education level, lower socioeconomic status, snacking while watching TV and exposure to advertising of unhealthy foods, poorer mental health, social isolation and chronic psychological stressors.

“There is not any credible support to the idea that any links between TV time and health outcomes can be attributed to the sitting involved.”

Assoc Prof Stamatakis added that too much standing can also be detrimental for health.

“Adequate daily physical activity and frequent alterations between sitting and standing is the key.”

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