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What sitting four hours a day or more can do to your health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sitting again linked to poor health.

If you want to live a healthier life, new research shows it's important to sit down less. Results of a new finding show sitting increases the chances of chronic diseases, regardless of other lifestyle, body mass index and socioeconomic factors.

Sitting has long been linked to risk of diseases. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity compared people who sit less than four hours a day to those who sit four or more hours daily.

Cancer, heart disease, diabetes more prevalent with sitting too long

Among the ailments linked to prolonged sitting were cancer, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Sitting six hours a day or more was also associated with higher risk of diabetes.

For the study Kansas State University researcher Richard Rosenkranz, assistant professor of human nutrition analyzed data from 63,048 males ages 45-65 from New South Wales, Australia. Chronic disease was more likely to be present among men who sat more than other men.

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"We saw a steady stair-step increase in risk of chronic diseases the more participants sat," Rosenkranz said in a press release "The group sitting more than eight hours clearly had the highest risk."

A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found the average American spends 7.5 hours a day sitting, either at work or watching television. Getting up and moving was associated with an increase in life expectancy of two years from sitting no more than 3 hours a day. Cutting back on television time could extend lifespan almost 2.5 years.

The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab), published in 2011, suggested watching television six hours a day could shave 5 years off a person's lifespan compared to someone who watches no TV.

Rosenkranz says even though we know people who are physically active are healthier, there should be more focus on sitting less. The finding is especially applicable for office workers, even those whose body mass index is normal and who get regular physical activity.

The finding should be noted by workplace managers who can contribute to employee health by encouraging standing at the desk, investing in walking treadmills, placing shredding bins and copiers away from work stations and by finding other innovative ways to discourage prolonged sitting at the office. If your workplace doesn't encourage frequent breaks from the desk, take it upon yourself to stand up during phone calls, elevating your computer with a desk accessory or just by taking frequent standing breaks whenever possible.

Kansas State University
Feb 18, 2013

Updated 3/12/2015