Too Much Sitting Can Kill You

Adults who sit 11 or more hours per day have a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next 3 years, compared with those who sat for fewer than 4 hours a day, according to a study led by the University of Sydney. This was after taking into account their physical activity, weight and health status.

Researchers showed physical activity still is beneficial: inactive people who sat the most had double the risk of dying within 3 years than the active people who sat least. And among the physically inactive group, those who sat the most had nearly one-third higher chance of dying than those who sat least.

“These results have important public health implications," said study lead author Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. “That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it's also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, at work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more."

The study of more than 200,000 people is published March 27 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The results are the first landmark findings to be published from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere.

The study's size and focus on total sitting time make it an important contributor to the growing evidence on the downsides of prolonged sitting. The average adult spends 90 percent of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organization physical activity recommendations.

An accompanying editorial in the journal said the evidence was strong enough to support doctors prescribing "reduced daily sitting time" to their patients.

The research was commissioned by the Cardiovascular Research Network and supported by the NSW Division of the National Heart Foundation Australia.

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