Prolonged sitting may kill you even if you exercise regularly, a new study suggests. If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early increases at 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, suggests study from an American Cancer Society.
According to the study authors, sitting may kill you in 14 ways, these includes:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Nervous disorders
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Liver disease
- Peptic ulcer
Lead researcher, Alpa Patel, strategic director of the cancer society’s prevention study-3 said:
“The simple message is that we should be moving more. The less sitting you do, the better it is for you. Breaking up an hour of sitting with 2 minutes of standing or light activity can improve cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.”
The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, but it’s clear that Americans are spending more time in their seats — watching TV, working on their laptops, playing on computers and smartphones. Elderly people sit more, and people with chronic disease spend even more sedentary time, the researchers noted.
An Australian study estimated that 90 percent of non-working time was sedentary, and that more than half of it was spent watching TV or sitting at computers.
It’s not clear why lengthy sitting is unhealthy, Patel said. It’s possible that people who spend a lot of time on the couch also have other unhealthy behaviors, such as eating excess unhealthy snacks.
Also, prolonged sitting has been linked to higher levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin. Sitting has also been linked to inflammation caused by obesity.
These concerns might explain why sitting was linked with death from heart, liver and kidney disease, cancer, diabetes and COPD, Patel added.
It’s uncertain why death from suicide, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, nervous and musculoskeletal disorders, is associated with sitting. For these, she said, it’s possible that the conditions themselves result in more sedentary lifestyle.
According to the study, the increased death risk varied by disease, ranging from 10 percent for cancer to 60 percent for musculoskeletal disease.
The report was published in June in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Patel’s team collected data on nearly 128,000 men and women who were part of an American Cancer Society prevention study. At the beginning of the study, all were free of major chronic diseases. During 21 years of follow-up, nearly 49,000 people died.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn., said, “We have known for some time now that sitting for long periods daily is harmful to health.”
He noted that this study links excessive sitting to an increased risk of dying early from an array of causes — everything from heart disease to suicide.
“Does this mean that sitting excessively increases suicide risk? That seems farfetched,” Katz said, who is also past president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
“Perhaps depressed people lack the motivation to get up and go out.
However, we know that routine activity is vital to mental health, so some contribution of sedentariness to the severity of depression is not out of the question.”
Katz said: “The remedy is at hand; stand up, stretch, walk around; repeat often.”