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Sitting is NOT the new smoking

PainSci » bibliography » Pulsford et al 2015
Tags: sedentariness

One article on PainSci cites Pulsford 2015: The Trouble with Chairs

PainSci commentary on Pulsford 2015: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This study is a nice FUD-fighter: its results directly contradict the overhyped notion that a lot of sitting is just as dangerous as smoking, an idea that’s been around for a few years now and it reeks of premature, fear-mongering speculation. There was never any good evidence that “sitting is the new smoking,” but this is good evidence that “sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk” in over 5,000 subjects.

This doesn’t remotely get us off the exercise hook. It doesn’t mean that a sedentary lifestyle is safe or healthy, but it does strongly suggest that we aren’t doomed by it (that is, you likely can compensate for a lot of time in a chair by being as active as possible otherwise).

The study’s biggest weakness — and it is a bit of a doozy — is that it’s based on self-reported activity levels, which are notoriously inaccurate.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Sitting behaviours have been linked with increased risk of all-cause mortality independent of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Previous studies have tended to examine single indicators of sitting or all sitting behaviours combined. This study aims to enhance the evidence base by examining the type-specific prospective associations of four different sitting behaviours as well as total sitting with the risk of all-cause mortality.

METHODS: Participants (3720 men and 1412 women) from the Whitehall II cohort study who were free from cardiovascular disease provided information on weekly sitting time (at work, during leisure time, while watching TV, during leisure time excluding TV, and at work and during leisure time combined) and covariates in 1997-99. Cox proportional hazards models were used to investigate prospective associations between sitting time (h/week) and mortality risk. Follow-up was from date of measurement until (the earliest of) death, date of censor or July 31 2014.

RESULTS: Over 81 373 person-years of follow-up (mean follow-up time 15.7 ± 2.2 years) a total of 450 deaths were recorded. No associations were observed between any of the five sitting indicators and mortality risk, either in unadjusted models or models adjusted for covariates including MVPA.

CONCLUSIONS: Sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk. The results of this study suggest that policy makers and clinicians should be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behaviour as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.

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