Seated desk work has come under fire these past several years as countless studies have linked it with a variety of health problems. But not all associations affect all people. When it comes to weight, a new study shows that the effects of regular sitting differ by gender and race.

Researchers reached this conclusion after conducting
a telephone interview survey of 1,891 men and women from four Missouri metropolitan areas. Participants were aged 21–65, held one occupation outside the home and were employed at least 20 hours per week. Each individual was asked about physical activity levels, time spent sitting at work, workplace wellness support, height and weight.

Survey analysis indicated that among all female respondents, women who sat for 31–180 minutes at work were 1.53 times more likely to be overweight or obese than women who sat for 30 minutes or less. Women who sat for 181–360 minutes were 1.9 times more likely to be overweight or obese, whereas those who sat for 361 minutes or more were 1.7 times more likely.

However, “in the race-stratified analysis of women, we found an association between occupational sitting and weight status among black women but not white women,” the authors wrote. “Compared with black women who spent 30 minutes or less of sedentary time at work, black women who spent 31–180 minutes were 2.43 times as likely to be obese, black women who spent 181–360 minutes were 2.76 times as likely, and black women who spent more than 360 minutes were 2.53 times as likely.”

The researchers did not identify an association between occupational sitting and weight among male respondents.

The study was published in Preventing Chronic Disease (2014; 11, 140286).

Do you work with women whose work involves extending sitting time? What are your strategies for getting them moving at the office? Send your responses to [email protected]

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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