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Monday 24th June 2019

Sitting less can add years to life

10th July 2012

New research has found that spending too much time sitting down is linked to health problems and a shortened lifespan.


According to Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director for population science at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, sitting down too much is a risk factor for disease.

He said a sedentary life, which means that a person spends a lot of time sitting down, was comparable to obesity in terms of its impact on a person's health.

Current estimates show that adults in the United States spend around 55% of their time in a sedentary state, or inactive.

Writing in the journal BMJ Open, Katzmarzyk's team say that humans evolved in an environment where constant movement was a necessity for survival, and that this same genetic inheritance did not do well with too much sitting down.

They suggest that keeping our time spent sitting down to less than three hours a day could add an extra two years to our lives.

Furthermore, watching television could be cut to less than two hours a day, so as to prolong life by nearly 1.4 years.

Human environments are gradually being designed not to encourage sitting, with some companies bringing in standing desks, and even treadmill desks.

Katzmarzyk said that even sedentary office workers can make a difference to their levels of activity, by going to talk to a colleague face-to-face rather than e-mailing them.

He said that some meetings need not be held sitting round a table, but could take place on a walk, for example.

Katzmarzyk and colleagues looked at data gathered by the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) over two time periods: 2005-2006 and 2009-2010. They wanted to gauge exactly how much time American adults spent watching television and sitting down.

They also reviewed another five studies involving a total of 167,000 adults, comparing the amount of time spent sitting with statistics on deaths from all causes.

They used the data to extrapolate the effects of sitting down on the health of an entire population.

According to Scott Kahan, director of the National Centre for Weight and Wellness in Washington, the study is the latest in a string of findings that suggest that our sedentary habits may be contributing to health problems.

Kahan said that the longer we sit down every day, the more likely we are to experience ill-health, and that sitting is a factor that influences health independently of our level of physical activity and other known health issues like smoking and obesity.

In modern society, according to Garry Sigman, director of the pediatric obesity program of Loyola University Medical Centre in Illinois, there is more opportunity to sit down nowadays than ever before.

Sigman said that moving, which used to be crucial to human survival at earlier points in our history, actually promotes feelings of well-being, and that people with desk jobs should be sure to take a walk during their lunch hour.


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