Pilot study to determine health benefits of sitting less

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, November 28, 2013

JANESVILLE—Can a four-week program reduce prolonged sitting time in older adults? That's what a UW-Madison community research program hopes to determine.

Organizers have recruited 14 people between the ages of 55 and 75 to participate in a two-hour weekly pilot study, which began Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 17 at the Rock County Council on Aging. Results will be compiled by the end of January, said Kelli Koltyn, professor of kinesiology.

The intervention program is working with older adults to come up with strategies to help them sit less during the day, said Joyce Lubben, director of the local council on aging.

“It will give us initial information on what works and what doesn't then ultimately will be expanded to other communities statewide,” Koltyn said.

Participants will have their sedentary behavior assessed before and after the interactive program via two match-book size monitors--one on the thigh and another around the waist--from the time they get up until the time they go to bed.

Similar to pedometers, these monitors measure and track the wearer's moving activity. This includes distance traveled, intensity and frequency, Koltyn said.

Each participant then will receive a printout to serve as a visual model of his or her activity, she said.

“They'll be able to see certain times of the day when they are more active or more sedentary. Hopefully this will help them with their strategies,” Koltyn said.

The study could provide the basis of future studies since most research on sedentary lifestyles has been conducted on the middle-aged, she said.

“It also could reveal a host of other things about why older adults sit as much as they do,” Koltyn said.

Being more active can decrease a person's risk of developing diabetes by 20 percent. It also can decrease all causes of mortality, some cancers and cardiovascular disease, she said.

Knowing that, May Ann Schultz, 69, of Janesville volunteered for the program because she realizes she sits too much.

“I'm hoping to gain motivation,” said Schultz, who added she hopes the study's findings might help others.

John Donagan, 69, Janesville, enrolled at the urging of his two sisters, but he admitted, “I hope to manage my time of sitting less.”

The interactive program will determine the health benefits of getting up and sitting less, Lubben said.

"It is exciting to be part of a research program to show the benefits of just getting up and not just sitting all the time,” she said.

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