For the first time, researchers from King’s College London have shown that increasing the levels of physical activity is likely to be much less effective at reducing prolonged sitting than directly attempting to decrease sitting time.
“These findings will be of interest to researchers and practitioners designing new ways to reduce prolonged sitting,” said lead researcher Dr Benjamin Gardner from King’s College London.
The team searched the existing literature on trials of interventions that sought to reduce sitting time.
The team then categorised these studies according to their effectiveness and examined the strategies that had been used in each trial to try to reduce sitting.
Some of the promising interventions included the provision of sit-stand desks at work.
Even when used in isolation, other techniques such as encouraging people to keep records of their own sitting time, setting individual goals for limiting sitting time, and using prompts and cues to remind people to stop them sitting were also found to help reduce sitting time.
In view of their study, the researchers now recommend that sitting time should be viewed as a separate behaviour change target to physical activity.
“The ill-effects of high levels of sitting may prove to be especially damaging given that so many people sit for long periods,” added Professor Stuart Biddle from Victoria University in Australia and co-author of the study.
Previous studies and reviews have shown that higher levels of sitting are linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even an early death, independently of whether a person takes regular exercise.
The results can be used by public health workers and policymakers responsible for designing new interventions to reduce sitting time and improve the overall health of those who may sit for prolonged periods.
The paper appeared in the journal Health Psychology Review.