Arnold School study on men’s TV, driving habits featured in New York Times


Tatiana Y. Warren

Tatiana Y. Warren

Men: Warning! Sitting too much may be harmful to your health – even if you do exercise regularly.
That’s the advice from a study, led by Tatiana Y. Warren of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, featured in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday (July 18).

The study on the harmful impact that sitting for long periods of time has on men – even those who say they’re physically active – has gotten a bit of a buzz in scientific circles and in the public since being published in the May issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

In fact, the New York Times highlighted the study last week in its blog, “Phys Ed: Men Who Stare at Screens.”

Researchers weren’t surprised to find that men who sat for the longest periods of time had the highest risk for developing heart disease. Men who sat the longest amount of time during the week – 23 hours or more – while watching television or riding in cars (driving or being passengers) had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who spent about half that time sitting.

The real surprise, Warren said, was that men who sat for long hours reported that they exercised regularly and led physically active lifestyles.

“It appears from the findings that their activity did not counteract those sedentary hours,” said Warren, a doctoral student in the department of exercise science at the Arnold School.

The data for the study of 7,744 healthy men, primarily white, came from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, dating back to 1982, at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Participants completed a survey on two sedentary behaviors – watching television and riding in cars. In the follow-up 21 years later, the researchers found that 377 men had experienced fatal heart attacks.

The study is one of the first to look at the effects associated with time spent engaged in combined sedentary behaviors and cardiovascular mortality, Warren said.

So, what can a person do if they are physically active, but do spend numerous hours working at their desks or watching television to unwind?

The answer: Get up and move about.

“Limit the amount of sedentary time throughout the day and evening,” she said.

“It ‘s all about being active throughout the day. Walk away from your computer. Bike instead of driving. Take the stairs when you can. Take to the treadmill while watching TV,” Warren said. “Put some activity into that sedentary time you have during the day.”

Warren collaborated with Arnold School researchers Vaughn Barry, Dr. Steven Hooker, Dr. Mei Sui, and Dr. Steve Blair, who also has a faculty appointment in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, and Dr. Timothy Church from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

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