Department for Health

Volunteers needed for new study into the danger of prolonged sitting on health

Mon Jul 07 09:14:00 BST 2014


Man sitting

— How might prolonged periods of sitting be bad for you and how could regular breaks help? Researchers in our Department for Health are conducting a new study and want your help.


A number of recent reports have highlighted the health challenges of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, in particular the negative impacts of sitting over long periods of each day in front of computer screens or TVs.

Now researchers from our Department for Health want to better understand how and why short, regular breaks away from the chair could help and are looking to recruit local people to take part in their sitting study.  

Researchers already know how performing exercise can help to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease. However, many people find it hard to fit structured exercise into their daily lives; something compounded by the fact that many people spend many hours sitting at a desk at work or on sofas at home.

Preliminary research has found that preventing prolonged sedentary or sitting time by introducing short 1-2 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes could help improve health. This could have a major impact on the advice given to the public but the researchers need better evidence first – something this study hopes to achieve.

Dr Dylan Thompson who is leading the research said: “Observational studies indicate that those people who spend more time sitting for prolonged periods have poorer health – but this relationship is not necessarily causal. There are many physiological reasons why short breaks to prolonged sitting could have a positive impact on health – but we need more controlled studies which identify the key mechanisms.”

For this study, the researchers are looking for men and post-menopausal women aged 35 to 64 years with a waist circumference more than 94cm (37 inches) for men or 80 cm (31 inches) for women.

The study involves a short visit to the University for various preliminary measurements and two main trials. The main trials will require participants to stay in the laboratory until 2 or 3pm. In one of these main trials participants will be asked to rest quietly and in the other they will be asked to break prolonged sitting every 20 minutes. The researchers will take regular measurements throughout whilst participants in the study continue to work, read or watch TV.

By taking part you can find out more about your health. Participants will receive detailed feedback regarding their metabolism and physical activity, body composition (from a DEXA scan), blood measurements, such as cholesterol, glucose and insulin. Participants will also learn about whether breaking prolonged sitting is helpful for them and, in return for taking part, all participants will receive six months free gym membership at the University.

If you would like to take part or want more information please contact Dr Dylan Thompson ( or 01225 383177) or Stanley Chen ( or 01225 383731).

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