They were also more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, worrisome cholesterol readings and a history of stroke, atrial fibrillation or coronary heart disease.
Such findings, of course, beg the question of which comes first — the immobility or the illness that leads to death.
“Observational studies, no matter how well designed, cannot imply causality,” University of Toronto cardiologist Dr. David A. Alter warned in an editorial.
But the findings of this prospective population-based study do fit with those of experimental studies. In trials involving humans sequestered in research labs, scientists have shown that racking up prolonged, uninterrupted bouts of sitting and lounging cause more worrisome short-term changes in metabolic and cardiovascular function than sedentary behavior that’s interrupted by periods of physical activity.
It only makes sense that those short-term changes translate over time to more profound changes in the risk for diseases linked to sedentary behavior, said Dr. James A. Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic who studies the health effects of sitting.
“If you’re sitting too much, you need to do something about it — like right now,” Levine said. “Unless you get moving now, you’re in trouble later.”
The finding that a workout will not undo the harms caused by prolonged sitting is unsurprising, Levine added.