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Sitting Too Much Increases Odds of Dying by 40 Percent

Apr 5, 2012

Please stand up before reading this. Spending too much time in a chair is bad for your health — really, really bad. New research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that people who spend a lot of time sitting may be up to 40% more likely to die from any cause, compared to people who don’t sit as long….

The study tracked nearly 222,500 Australian adults for about three years. During that time, people’s odds of dying dovetailed with how much time they spent sitting. Compared to people who spent less than four hours per day sitting, the odds of dying were:

  • 15% higher for people who sat for at least eight hours
  • 40% higher for people who sat for 11 or more hours a day

The researchers wrote that the findings add to the mounting evidence that public health programs should focus not just on increasing population physical activity levels, but also on reducing sitting time.

Alpa V. Patel, PhD, has published studies on the health risks associated with too much sitting. She is an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. “We are continuing to demonstrate time and time again in different populations that there is something real to the association between sitting time and reduced longevity.”

What’s so bad about sitting for long periods? That’s not totally clear. But exercise and movement do have a positive effect on blood fats called triglycerides and other heart risks, and improves blood pressure, Patel says. Her advice: Sit for five fewer minutes per hour. “Small changes can have a big impact,” she says.

David A. Friedman, MD. He is the chief of heart failure services at North Shore Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y. noted that, technology may fight that. It’s given us fewer reasons to move. Instead of texting or emailing a colleague, “walk down a few cubicles and say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ This is good face time and it’s also good exercise.”

The new study doesn’t prove that sitting killed people. It’s not clear which came first — poorer health or spending more time in a chair. Still, there’s no doubt that movement is good for

Van der Ploeg, H. Archives of Internal Medicine, March 27, 2012.