A new study is questioning whether constant sitting increases the risk of an early death if one is otherwise physically active.

The study, from the University of Exeter and University College London, challenges previous studies that suggest the act of sitting itself is harmful even if people routinely walk or participate in other exercise. It also contradicts the UK’s National Health Service’s (NHS) recommendations that remaining seated is unhealthy, regardless of the amount of exercise one does, according to a media release from University of Exeter.

In the study, published recently in International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers followed more than 5,000 participants (3720 men and 1412 women) for 16 years.

The participants provided the researchers with information about total sitting time and four other specific types of sitting behavior (sitting at work, during leisure time, while watching TV, and sitting during leisure time excluding TV). Details about daily walking and time spent engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity were included.

Age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, general health, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diet were all taken into account, the release explains.

During the 16 years that these participants were studied, none of these five sitting measures influenced their mortality risk, per the release.

Lead author Richard Pulsford, PhD, from the Sport and Health Sciences department at the University of Exeter, notes in the release that, “Our findings suggest that reducing sitting time might not be quite as important for mortality risk as previously publicized, and that encouraging people to be more active should still be a public health priority.”

Study author Melvyn Hillsdon, PhD, also from the Sport and Health Sciences department at University of Exeter states that, “Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself. Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.

“The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations, which employers are increasingly providing to promote healthy working environments,” he adds in the release.

[Source(s): University of Exeter, Science Daily]