Is Our Job Making Us Fat? Researcher Gives the Skinny on the Impact of Prolonged Sitting

Friday, Nov. 30, 2018


If you are sitting down reading this, you might want to stand up.

We've all read the reports claiming that sitting is the new smoking, with both being detrimental to our health — and radiologists are no exception.

"As radiologists, we spend more time sitting at a desk than many of our other physician colleagues, so this idea is particularly relevant to us," said Andrew Wagner, MD, at a Thursday poster discussion.

Dr. Wagner, a resident at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, shared the results of his recent study evaluating the effects of prolonged sitting on the overall health of radiologists. The study was based on a 20-question online survey taken by 354 radiologists from across the country. Questions covered such topics as the workstation environment, reported health, weight gain, level of exercise and willingness to learn about making positive changes.

"Our aim was to evaluate the typical radiologist work environment and determine correlations between hours spent sitting, hours worked per week, amount of exercise, weight gain and overall reported health," Dr. Wagner said.

Based on the collected data, Dr. Wagner found several interesting correlations between these factors. For instance, 60 percent of respondents reported gaining weight since starting their career with a mean weight gain of 10.9 pounds. Radiologists in general reported gaining 1.25 pounds per extra hour spent sitting each day, and less than 20 percent said they were getting the average weekly recommended amount of exercise.

"What we see is a positive correlation between the average number of hours spent sitting per day and the amount of weight gained," he said. "Likewise, the more hours a person spends sitting correlates with a lower reported overall health."

Interestingly, although 81 percent of the radiologists surveyed said they were open to learning about being more active during the work day, only 29 percent thought their practice partners and/or administrators would support such actions.

Fortunately, there are a number of practical solutions for improving the work environment.

For instance, adjustable workstations, which were fairly common in the survey group, resulted in an average of 30 minutes less time spent sitting per day and increased reported overall health. Regularly exercising also makes a big difference. According to Dr. Wagner, respondents who exercised five times a week reported the least amount of weight gain.

"Surprisingly, taking short walking breaks during the day did not result in less weight gain or better reported health, suggesting this is not enough to replace moderate to high intensity exercise," he added.

Hopefully, evaluating which factors contribute to weight gain and poorer reported health will help radiologists make some positive changes, Dr. Wagner said.

"We hope the results of this survey help radiologists become more proactive in improving their work habits – and their health."


Twitter Poll