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How Often Do We Sit; And What Are the Risks?

woman sitting with a laptop
(Image: Getty Images)

Science involves a lot of work. It’s not just sitting around studying stuff, but sometimes science does involve studying how much people are sitting around. Recently some researchers published their work on how the nation is spending more time than ever sitting. How often do we sit?  Listen to this  Question Your World radio report produced by the  Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Okay, I’ve got some news for you. You may want to sit down for this one…or maybe not, actually. A team of researchers just published their latest study on how Americans still sit too much!

This research is the first of its kind, looking at how much time Americans are spending being sedentary by looking across all ages and ethnicities across the entire nation. For this research they studied 51,000 people from 2001 to 2016. Individuals were placed into four age groups: children - between ages of 5 and 11, adolescents - between the ages of 12 and 19, adults - from 20 to 64, and an older adult group of 64 and up.

So, what were the results? Well, there’s a whole lot of sitting going on!

Most Americans across all age groups spend at least 2 hours per day sitting watching TV or having casual internet time. Speaking of casual internet time, a quarter of Americans are now using computers outside of work and schoolfor at least three hours or more! Furthermore, adolescents and adults both reported their sitting time had increased by an hour from the years 2007 to 2016, showing more proof of this growing sitting-trend.

All this sitting comes with some concern as scientists have attributed increased times of inactivity to the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease among other health issues. While there have been many studies in the past about sedentary lifestyles and the health impacts involved, this is the first time a study has been done to capture the sitting-data at a national capacity. This gives us a broad range picture on how much we sit and maybe take some steps to prevent as much down-time when possible.

This is not to say that resting is bad. Quite the opposite actually. Scientists have done many studies on how important rest and downtime can be for the body, brain, and over all quality of life. Too much rest though tends to tread into the territory of poor health as well. Like most things mom told us growing up, balance is very important here. Activity and rest are both vital to a healthy human body, and monitoring these things helps scientists pass the information on the public in hopes of making them more aware on how to raise the bar on their own quality of life.

This information is not only good for the general public, but also for city planners looking to design areas that promote more active citizens, having areas in neighborhoods where parents and children can safely access places for them to get their move-on. This research on sitting habits further shows that concern over public health is a standing issue.


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