Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
According to a new Northwestern Medicine study, every additional day spent sitting for someone 60 years or older doubles their risk of becoming disabled.
The study is the first to show how prolonged sitting adds to the risk factor for disability. The findings show that sedentary behavior is almost as strong a risk factor for disability as lack of moderate exercise.
According to the researchers, if there are two 65-year-old women, one of which is sedentary for 12 hours a day and another for 13 hours a day, the second one is 50 percent more likely to be disabled.
“This is the first time we’ve shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise,” Dorothy Dunlop, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Being sedentary is not just a synonym for inadequate physical activity.”
Disability is defined by limitations in being able to do basic activities like eating, dressing, bathing, getting in and out of bed and walking across a room. Being disabled increases hospitalization risk and institutionalization, and is the leading source of health care costs.
The team’s study focused on 2,286 adults aged 60 and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The researchers compared people in similar health with the same amount of moderate vigorous activity, which could be defined as walking briskly.
Participants wore accelerometers from 2002 to 2005 to measure their sedentary time and moderate vigorous physical activity. The monitoring method in the study was significant because it is objective.
Previous studies indicated a relationship between sedentary behavior and disability, but it was based on self-reports and couldn’t be verified. However, this study relied on the accelerometer data, which is impartial.
Dunlop said that discovering how being sedentary was as strong a risk factor for disability as lack of moderate vigorous activity was surprising.
“It means older adults need to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting, whether in front of the TV or at the computer, regardless of their participation in moderate or vigorous activity,” she said
The researchers made some suggestions to help people cut back on sedentary time, such as standing up while talking on the phone or during a work meeting. They also suggest to park in a spot farther away from the door when going to a grocery store, or walk around the house when having to get up to go get a glass of water.