uOttawa student investigates effect of sedentariness on health of young people

Travis Saunders

Travis Saunders

A recent Statistics Canada lifestyle study showed that young Canadians spend an average of 8.6 hours per day doing sedentary activities. Although we are well aware that life in society as we know it today often means us spending several hours a day sitting down, effects of our lifestyle on our health remain relatively unknown.

Travis Saunders, a PhD student at the University of Ottawa School of Human Kinetics, has investigated the link between our ubiquitous sedentariness and the risk of chronic disease among Canadian children and teenagers. Through his research, Travis is also affiliated with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute (CHEO RI).

“For my thesis project, I’m asking kids aged 10-14 to spend a full day sitting down in our lab. During that time they do lots of sedentary things like playing video games, watching TV, and using a computer. We want to see if their metabolic health (e.g. insulin, glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels) is impacted by this single day of sitting.”

The most worrying aspect this research will attempt to confirm is undoubtedly whether the damage to our health caused by hours of sitting is reversible. “But in recent years, there has been a growing body of research that suggests that people who sit more are at increased risk of death and disease, even if they are physically active,” Travis explains.

Canadians should therefore not only be more active, but also keep the time they spend doing activities where they are sitting down to a minimum, if they want to reduce their risk of developing diseases caused by the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Although Travis is only at the data collection stage for the moment, he believes that the conclusions of his study could be used to nullify or at least reduce the effect of these habits on our children. “Some results may influence the way that we choose to structure the school day and other activities that typically involve prolonged periods of sitting,” he concludes.

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