obesity and sedentary lifestyle

Updated: December 22, 2017

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), almost 35% of adults and 17% of youth in the U.S. are obese. With obesity being linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer (some of the leading causes of death in the U.S.), obesity is one of the greatest health issues in the U.S. Traditionally, obesity has been thought to have been caused by diet and lack of exercise. However, researchers have found that the amount of time you spend sitting is another important factor, and a sedentary lifestyle may actually be worse than obesity.

The Link Between Sitting and Obesity

A study from London, UK, has demonstrated that both the amount of time sitting and the amount of exercise you get every week affects your chances of obesity. Those who engaged in low levels of exercise had an 8% rate of obesity, as compared to those who engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise, who had a 4.8% rate of obesity (defined at 4.25 hours per week). After 10 years, the rates were 6.9% for the active group, and 11.9% for the sedentary group. High levels of exercise were associated with a 36% reduced risk of obesity after 5 years, and 37% after 10 years. When you add sitting into the equation, those who had the exercised the most and sat the least had a 74% lower risk of obesity after 5 years. After 10 years, 49%.

TV Watching and Obesity

The link between TV watching and obesity was established by Harvard University over 25 years ago, leading many health organizations to recommend that children and teens limit TV/media time to no more than 2 hours per day. The Harvard School of Public Health website explains that researchers have hypothesized that TV watching could promote obesity by displacing time for physical activity, promoting poor diets, giving more opportunities for unhealthy snacking (during TV viewing); as well as possibly interfering with sleep. There are now devices that you can connect to a TV or video game that will limit use based on how it's programmed (such as BOB - Screen Time Manager.) Many studies, such as one published by the National Institutes of Health, have found that the more TV a child watches, the more likely they are to be overweight. And according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, children who have TVs in their bedrooms are also more likely to gain excess weight than children who don’t. And there’s evidence that TV viewing rates in childhood predicts obesity risk well into adulthood and mid-life. And as "Generation M" (for media) continue to spend more time in front of some kind of a screen, rates of obesity in children may rise. Another JAMA study followed more than 50,000 middle-age women for 6 years and found that for every 2 hours the women spent watching TV, they had a 23% higher risk of becoming obese (as well as a 14% greater risk of diabetes.

Driving or Riding in a Car and Obesity

Not surprisingly, sitting in a car seems to produce similar results to sitting on a couch or chair. A study done in China compared the rates of obesity in those started using a car and those who didn't. Data was collected from 4741 Chinese adults 20 to 55 years old. Those who acquired a car gained on average 4 pounds, and had double the rates of obesity.

Sitting More Dangerous Than Obesity

According to a study from the University of Cambridge, being sedentary may be twice as dangerous as being obese. The study involved over 334,000 participants for over 12 years and calculated that more deaths would have been prevented by not being sedentary than not being overweight. Lead author of the study, Ulf Ekelund, a senior investigator scientist in the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, explains to HealthDay, "Efforts to encourage small increases in physical activity in inactive individuals likely have significant health benefits." "The risk reduction was seen in normal weight, overweight and obese people" Ekelund said. "We estimated that eradicating physical inactivity in the population would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated." Read about how you can reduce your risk of obesity by adding more movement into your day... 


  • http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1832542
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25078481
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3873060
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18390579
  • http://kff.org/other/generation-m-media-in-the-lives-of/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11943837
  • http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/01/14/ajcn.114.100065.abstract
  • http://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/misc-death-and-dying-news-172/lack-of-exercise-more-deadly-than-obesity-study-suggests-695505.html

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