According to a recent study, most Americans continue to sit for long periods despite public health messages that such idleness increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.
The researchers investigated surveys of 51,000 individuals from 2001 to 2016 to trail sitting trends in front of computers and TVs and the total amount of time spent sitting on a daily basis.
The current study is the first to document sitting in a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. It was across multiple age groups, from children to the aging, and different ethnic and racial groups. The findings of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the researchers of the study, a lot of these sedentary habits are made early. So, there is a need to make changes which help children be more active. Thus, it could pay off in the future, both for children and adults and for future health-care spending.
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with poor health in many areas. However, it could have a big impact if we can reduce that across the board.
The new study fills a gap in understanding on sedentary behavior. For example, the most recent edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends less sitting time but proposes no regulation on how much.
The researchers of the study analyzed records from more than 51,000 people. These individuals participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 and 2016, looking at four age groups;
- children ages 5 to 11
- adolescents ages 12 to 19
- adults ages 20 to 64
- adults ages 65 and older
Ethnicity and race were defined as non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and other races, counting multiracial.
From 2007 to 2016, total daily sitting time increased among adults and adolescents from 7 hours per day to over 8 for teenagers, and from 5.5 hours per day to nearly 6.5 for adults, the researchers found.
The investigators found that most Americans spend at least 2 hours per day sitting and watching videos and television. Among children ages 5-11, 62% spent at least that long in front of screens daily. For adolescents ages 12-19, that number was 59%. However, about 65% of adults ages 20 to 64 spent at least 2 hours watching TV per day.
And recently, from 2015 to 2016, 84% of adults over age 65 spent at least that much time sitting watching TV. And this remained fixed over the course of the study.
Across all age groups, 28% to 38% of those surveyed spent at least 3 hours per day watching videos or TV, and 13% to 23% spent 4 hours or more in watching videos and TV.
The bottom line
Notably, males of all age groups, non-Hispanic black individuals of all age groups and those who reported being obese were more likely to spend more time sitting to watch televisions than their counterparts.
Furthermore, computer screen time outside of school and work increased over this period. At least half of the individuals across all age groups used a computer during leisure time for more than 1 hour per day. And up to a quarter of the U.S. population used computers outside of school and work for 3 hours or more. How we create public policies that support less sitting is unclear and likely to be difficult.
Our environments play roles in these actions which are problematic to change. But now, we have a baseline from which to measure whether these specific changes are having an effect.