Sedentary lifestyle pegged as dangerous as smoking

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Sedentary lifestyle involving prolonged sitting has been pegged as dangerous for one’s health as smoking and researchers have suggested that this could lead to a range health issues including obesity, diabetes and even early death.

According to Queen’s University, Belfast researchers, who are a part of a European consortium which has received a €4.5 million European Commission grant to help develop innovative ways to tackle sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in older people, sedentary behaviour poses a significant threat to health of people and this is more common in old people.

Working with researchers in Spain, Denmark, Germany, France and Scotland, researchers at Queen’s will be carrying out a four-year study to develop new ways of helping adults over 65 years of age to sit less and become more active, before testing them on 1,300 people in four European countries.

Dr Mark Tully, from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s University, is leading the project in Northern Ireland and according to him people in Northern Ireland are at an increased risk of great health problems from sedentary lifestyle as the it will the largest number of older adults, than other UK countries.

“One of the biggest threats to health is the amount of time spent sitting. On average people spend over nine hours, or up to 80 per cent of their waking day, sitting down.”

Researchers and public health officials have already recognised that there is a need to develop effective interventions that will address the high levels of inactivity across ages.

One Canadian study has revealed that adults who spent most of their time sitting were 50 per cent more likely to die during the follow-up than those that sit the least.

And Queen’s researchers have already shown that mothers who sit more during pregnancy are likely to have heavier babies, while men who spend more time sitting at work have poorer kidney function.

Dr Tully continued: “During this study we hope to be able to identify effective methods to help our ageing society make positive lifestyle changes in order to improve their health and wellbeing. This programme will then be available for delivery through the health system in each of the member countries,” he added.

Some suggestions that could be used to help people be more active at work are treadmill and height adjustable desks, which allow users to alternate between standing and sitting. Indeed, Dr Mark Tully himself regularly uses his treadmill desk during his working day.