Behavior Change and Health News

Sedentary Behavior Can Increase Risk of Developing Metabolic Syndrome

More than one third of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes and the risk of dying from these and other chronic diseases. Previous research found that certain levels of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness can have a positive impact on risk factors for metabolic syndrome. In a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, researchers examined how sedentary behavior—a unique risk factor independent of physical activity—affects metabolic syndrome risk.

Reviewing data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, the researchers discovered that the study participants who reported middle to high levels of sedentary behavior were 65 to 76 percent more likely to develop higher risk for metabolic syndrome than those with low sedentary behavior. This positive association remained significant after adjusting for physical activity status and cardiorespiratory fitness. This is the first study to suggest that, regardless of cardiorespiratory fitness levels, sedentary behavior can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

What does this mean for you? At the very least, you should look for ways to reduce the time you spend each day in sedentary activities such as sitting while at work, commuting, or watching TV. Here are some ways to cut back on sedentary time each day.
  • Get up from your computer or chair at least once every 30 minutes.
  • Stand while talking on the phone.
  • Walk to someone’s desk to talk with them rather than e-mailing or calling.
  • Take the stairs whenever you can.
  • Stand up and move during commercial breaks when watching TV.
  • Take a walk before or after dinner.
  • Walk to do your nearby errands instead of driving.
For more ideas on making daily movement a part of your lifestyle, check out Active Living Every Day. The program teaches you how to evaluate your challenges to being active, come up with options for moving more, and ensure that physical activity every day is the norm for you rather than the exception. You can learn more at, send an e-mail to, or call 800-747-4457.

Sources Blair, S.N., Dunn, A.L., Marcus, B.H., Carpenter, R.A, and Jaret P. 2011. Active living every day (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Greer, A.E., Sui, X., Maslow, A.L., Greer, B.K., and Blair, S.N. 2015. The effects of sedentary behavior on metabolic syndrome independent of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 12, 68–73.

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