A new study has found that older women spend a considerable amount of their waking hours being physically inactive. That does not mean they just sit still. Two-thirds of their waking hours are sedentary, according to the study.
However, they frequently moved about to do short activities, at an average about nine times a day. "This is the first part of an ongoing study, and the first paper to look at the patterns of activity and sedentary behaviours," said lead author Eric Shiroma, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.
"Some research says that sitting for long periods is harmful and the recommendation is that we should get up every 30 minutes, but there's little hard data available on how much we're sitting and how often we get up and how measures such as these affect our health risks," Shiroma explained.
A sedentary lifestyle has often been associated with poor health. Numerous previous studies have indicated an increased risk for chronic health problems, such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer for people who are inactive.
Shiroma said that the research did not take into account what activities were women participating in when they were moving. Analysts only knew if they were moving or not.
"I was kind of surprised. I thought the women would be sitting more, for longer periods," he said. "Now we need to know if it matters. Does sitting for five, 10 or 30 minutes mean something different for your health than sitting longer?"
However, one expert said she wasn't surprised by the study findings.
"It's what I see in the geriatric world," said Dr. Yonette Davis, chief of geriatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in New York City. "The routine of working and taking care of the kids has changed. They don't have that nine-to-five routine any more, and their lifestyle just isn't as rigorous," she explained.
Davis said it also wasn't surprising to see that as people got older, or as their weight increased that they were more sedentary. "You have fewer reserves for those short energy bursts as you get older or heavier," she said.
Results of the study are published as a letter in the Dec. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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