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Objective: To examine associations of time spent sitting in cars with markers of cardio-metabolic risk in Australian adults.

Method: Data were from 2800 participants (age range: 34–65) in the 2011–12 Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. Self-reported time spent in cars was categorized into four groups: ≤ 15 min/day; > 15 to ≤ 30 min/day; > 30 to ≤ 60 min/day; and > 60 min/day. Markers of cardio-metabolic risk were body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL (high-density lipoprotein)-cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, 2-h plasma glucose, a clustered cardio-metabolic risk score, and having the metabolic syndrome or not. Multilevel linear and logistic regression analyses examined associations of car time with each cardio-metabolic risk outcome, adjusting for socio-demographic and behavioral variables and medication use for blood pressure and cholesterol/triglycerides.

Results: Compared to spending 15 min/day or less in cars, spending more than 1 h/day in cars was significantly associated with higher BMI, waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose, and clustered cardio-metabolic risk, after adjusting for socio-demographic attributes and potentially relevant behaviors including leisure-time physical activity and dietary intake. Gender interactions showed car time to be associated with higher BMI in men only.

Conclusions: Prolonged time spent sitting in cars, in particular over 1 h/day, was associated with higher total and central adiposity and a more-adverse cardio-metabolic risk profile. Further studies, ideally using objective measures of sitting time in cars and prospective designs, are needed to confirm the impact of car use on cardio-metabolic disease risk.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Open Access Journal Article

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