Previous research has proven that sedentary behavior contributes to a faster mortality rate and disorders such as obesity and hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. Although numerous studies have been conducted to uncover the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle, few relevant studies have been conducted with the intention of finding out the effects for older groups of people, such as elderly women.
Elderly people spend more time engaging in sedentary activity, whereas younger people may engage more in physical activity. According to a study conducted by researchers at Orebro University, more women continue to not meet the recommended amount of weekly physical activity than men. Therefore, the group that receives the least health benefits from lack of physical activity is elderly women.
The study examined 120 women between the ages of 65 and 70. Each woman responded to an advertisement placed in a local newspaper asking participants for a health study. All participating women were from an urban area in Sweden and were of white European origin.
Each woman received screenings for heart disease and diabetes, and none of the women selected smoked cigarettes. Additionally, the women were tested for factors that may have impeded mobility, such as physical disabilities. Prior to the study’s conduction, physicians recorded data on each participant. They took down measurements for height, waist circumference and weight, and recorded blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
After preliminary screening, the researchers began to monitor physical activity and sedentary behavior for a week. The participants were instructed to wear an accelerometer at the hip during all waking hours of the day, except when participating in water activities, such as bathing or swimming. If the women removed the monitor at any point, they were expected to note the time they had it on and off. The accelerometer measured their daily physical activity levels.
The women received instructions to wear the monitor for at least 10 hours a day for a period of no fewer than four days. At the end of the study, researchers found that the average number of days monitored using the accelerometer was 5.8 days and the average wear-time was 14.2 hours. Out of the 120 women who initially agreed to take part in the study, 113 completed it fully.
Blood sample assessments were also done in order to retrieve medical history and test for drug use. Researchers also recorded data on participants’ energy intake by tracking their fat intake, energy intake and alcohol consumption over a period of six days during the trial.
The results of the study fall in line with the results of similar studies done previously. The study further demonstrates that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to negative health effects, such as the development of obesity and heart-related issues.
However, despite sharing similar results, the study also gives evidence that the amount of time sitting does not matter as much as the amount of physical activity an individual gets.
Additionally, research and data concluded that the link between metabolic risk and sedentary behavior is not independent of physical activity, which means that the amount of physical activity in a day is crucial to reducing risk of developing heart diseases or other cardiovascular disorders in elderly women.
“In contrast to the total amount of sedentary time accumulated during a day, our data indicated that the amount of sedentary time occurring in bouts of at least 10 consecutive minutes is associated with detrimental effects on metabolic health outcomes, which supports previous research,” the study says. “However, observed effect sizes of sedentary behavior on metabolic risk outcomes were small, and even though associations remained significant when controlling for MVPA time, none remained significant after controlling for total daily accelerometer counts.”
According to the accompanying press release, these results might help improve living conditions for elderly women, who would ideally be encouraged to pursue physical activity in lieu of sedentary behavior.
“The results may well apply to other groups since they are in line with a meta-analysis of previous research based on a million adult men and women, which indicated that physical activity rather than sedentary behavior affects the risk of mortality,” the press release states.
Despite having found a correlation between the amount of physical activity and the presence of metabolic disorders, the researchers who conducted the study still pay heed to any external factors that may have skewed the results. Although the women were instructed to wear the accelerometer during waking hours only, the time deemed as “waking hours” was standardized and did not account for factors such as sleep disturbances, which may cause some to wake up in the middle of the night.