More Data Show Long Bouts of Sitting Raise Diabetes Risk

Another study that suggests sitting is "the new smoking."

Another new study, this one from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, adds to accumulating evidence that has caused some to call sitting for long stretches “the new smoking,” due to its adverse health effects.

The study of about 2500 men and women, whose average age was 60, found that sitting for longer periods was associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, based on having the patients wear a device that tracked their movement around the clock for an 8-day period. Researchers then tested patients’ blood glucose levels.

The study was published in Diabetologia.

Of the 2497 people in the study, most sat for a period of 9 hours a day. An extra hour of sitting was associated with a 22% increased odds of type 2 diabetes and a 39% increased odds metabolic syndrome.

Unlike smoking, which people can quit even though it’s difficult, work life for many is structured around sitting at a desk and doing tasks at a computer. The study suggests if the work day is then followed by other sedentary tasks, such as watching television, the likelihood of diabetes increases. People who sat more also had a higher body mass index.

Several studies in recent years have singled out sedentary behavior, and watching television in particular, as risk factors in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer.

Strategies for offsetting the effects of sitting include taking breaks every hour, walking during lunch, or using a standing desk, according to the World Health Organization.


Van der Ber, Stehouwer CDA, Bosma H, et al. Associations of total amount and patterns of sedentary behavior with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome: The Maastricht Study [published online February 2, 2016]. Diabetologia. 2016; doi:10.1007/s00125-015-3861-8.