Sitting and Mortality

It is well understood that obesity and sedentary living is strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. New research suggests that independent of obesity and diabetes, time spent sitting is strongly associated with a higher risk of mortality (Patel, Bernstein, Deka, Feigelson, Campbell, Gapstur, Colditz, & Thun, 2010). This is somewhat disconcerting to those of us who spend a lot of time at our desks or computers in spite of being physically active.

As a part of the Cancer Prevention II study, 123,216 men and women with no history of cancer, heart disease, stroke, or lung disease were followed from 1993 to 2006 and evaluated for obesity, physical activity, time spent sitting, and overall mortality. Women who spent more than six hours a day sitting, had a 37 percent higher mortality compared to participants who sat fewer than three hours a day. The risk for men was 18 percent higher.

The situation was even worse for those who were otherwise physically inactive in addition to spending so much time sitting. Inactive women who sat over 6 hours had a 94 percent higher mortality, and for men the increase was 48 percent. It should be noted that the foregoing associations were largely related to mortality from heart disease than cancer.

The message is that even if you have a regular exercise program, it is important to keep moving rather than spending too much time working at a desk.

Patel, A.V., Bernstein, L., Deka, A., Feigelson, H.S., Campbell, P.T., Gapstur, S.M., Colditz, G.A & Thun, M.J. 2010. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of U.S. adults. American Journal Epidemiology, 172, 419-429.

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