The Link Between Sitting and Disability in Older Adults

Clocking in at four hours, last night’s Academy Awards broadcast was a long one–and that’s not even counting the pre-Oscar red carpet coverage! While I am usually glued to the television during Oscar night, I made sure to get up and move around during the commercial breaks last night–I even took the dog for a walk around the block–and I did so because I had just read a recently published study on the potential risks of prolonged sitting.

Long Periods of Sitting can Increase Risk of Disability in Older AdultsAccording to the study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health last month, sitting for prolonged periods of time can significantly increase the potential for disability in older adults. Dorothy Dunlop, one of the study authors, notes in a Scientific American article that the risk results were raised regardless of how much physical activity study subjects participated in when not sitting: “This is the first time we’ve shown sedentary behavior was related to increased disability regardless of the amount of moderate exercise…Being sedentary doesn’t erase the benefits of being physical active, it’s a separate risk factor.” The article continues:

Researchers analyzed information from more than 2,200 adults ages 60 and older who wore a pedometer to track their movement for at least four days.
While they were awake, participants spent about nine hours a day sitting down. Every additional hour spent sitting was linked with a nearly 50-percent increase in the odds of having a disability, the study found. The researchers defined disability as having significant difficulty completing daily tasks, such as eating, bathing or getting out of bed and walking across a room.
That means that, if there are two 65-year-old women, and one sits for nine hours a day and the other sits for 10 hours, the second one is 50 percent more likely to have a disability, the researchers said. About 3.5 percent of all participants had a disability.
The findings held even after the researchers took into account factors that could increase the risk of having a disability, such as age, and chronic health conditions such as obesity, stroke and arthritis; as well as how much exercise participants engaged in (such as brisk walking).

According to the article, this increased risk of disability may be related to prolonged sitting because it can affect blood circulation, which can lead to high blood pressure or heart disease. Sitting for long periods of time can also aggravate any back or joint pain. Dunlop suggests, to avoid potential problems, they can “find opportunities to replace some of their sitting time with light activity, such as standing up when talking on the phone, or taking a walk around the house during commercial breaks when watching TV.”

Assisted Living communities in California have excellent physical and social activity programs to keep residents healthy and engaged throughout the day. Are you considering moving yourself or a loved one into Assisted Living to take advantage of these opportunities? Search for a CALA-member Assisted Living community today.


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