Compared to people of earlier generations, the average person today spends a disproportionate amount of time sitting down, whether it’s working in an office, playing video games, or driving a car. This increased sitting time is taking a toll on our bodies, as well as our life expectancy.
A new study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that sitting for more than three hours per day is responsible for nearly four percent of all-cause mortality deaths. Researchers also estimate that reducing sitting time to less than three hours per day would increase life expectancy by an average of 0.2 years.
By analyzing surveys of people from 54 different countries, the researchers found that sitting time significantly impacted all-cause mortality rates, accounting for approximately 433,000, or 3.8 percent, of all deaths across all nations in the study.
They found that sitting had a greater impact on death rates in the Western Pacific region, followed by European, Eastern Mediterranean, American, and Southeast Asian countries, respectively.
The findings carry strong implications for our lives, especially in light of recent research showing that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk of death, regardless of activity level. Researchers now believe that even engaging in moderate or vigorous physical activity might not be enough to undo the detrimental effects of extended sitting.
“It was observed that even modest reductions, such as a 10 percent reduction in the mean sitting time or a 30-minute absolute decrease of sitting time per day, could have an instant impact in all-cause mortality in the 54 evaluated countries, whereas bolder changes (for instance, 50 percent decrease or two hours fewer) would represent at least three times fewer deaths versus the 10 percent or 30-minute reduction scenarios,” explained lead investigator Leandro Rezende, M.Sc., Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine.
Studies are beginning to show us exactly how detrimental prolonged sitting is for our health, even when coupled with exercise; however, changing habits is a difficult proposition.
“Although sitting is an intrinsic part of human nature, excessive sitting is very common in modern societies,” said Rezende. “Sedentary behavior is determined by individual, social, and environmental factors, all strongly influenced by the current economic system, including a greater number of labor-saving devices for commuting, at home and work, and urban environment inequalities that force people to travel longer distances and live in areas that lack support for active lifestyles.”
The study findings show that reducing sitting time, even by a small amount, can lead to longer lives, but lessening time spent in chairs may also prompt people to be more physically active in general.
“Although sitting time represents a smaller impact compared with other risk factors, reducing sitting time might be an important aspect for active lifestyle promotion, especially among people with lower physical activity levels,” said Rezende. “In other words, reducing sitting time would help people increase their volumes of physical activity along the continuum to higher physical activity levels.”
Source: Elsevier Health Sciences