A new study on the effects of inactivity on the health of older women adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that prolonged sitting is linked to heart disease and mortality risk.
The study, published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association, included 518 female participants over the age of 50. All participants were considered obese or overweight based on BMI.
“Heart disease in women has been understudied, despite this being the number one cause of death in women,” says lead author Dr. Dorothy Sears, adding that one in three women will die from heart disease.
“Older women are the fastest-growing population in the US, and after menopause, [they] experience a dramatic increase in risk for cardiometabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.”
Sears’s findings suggest a strong link between inactivity and obesity, as well as higher insulin, triglycerides, and insulin resistance.
Each hour of sitting per day was associated with a 7% (or higher) increase in insulin resistance, with each additional 15 minutes of inactivity producing a 9% increase in insulin resistance.
“I expected that there would be some association between sitting time and insulin resistance but did not expect such a strong magnitude of effect,” notes Sears.
The effects of prolonged inactivity did not change if participants exercised.
“Clinicians and other healthcare providers should encourage [people] to reduce their sitting times, total daily sitting time, and uninterrupted bouts of sitting, in addition to encouraging exercise,” says Sears.
Interrupting periods of sitting with standing, walking, or other light activities could make a huge difference.
Moving forward, Sears wants to conduct a multi-ethnic study to determine if these effects are consistent among different peoples.