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Sit More, Die Sooner

Study: People Who Spend Most Leisure Time Sitting Die Soonest

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

July 22, 2010 -- Sit at leisure, die at haste, an American Cancer Society study finds.

In the 14-year study, people who spent at least 6 hours of their daily leisure time sitting died sooner than people who sat less than 3 hours.

And people who both sit a lot and exercise little are at even higher risk of death, find ACS epidemiologist Alpa V. Patel, PhD, and colleagues.

The effect is stronger for women than for men, but significant for both sexes.

Patel's data come from 53,440 U.S. men and 69,776 women who were 50-74 years old when the study began in 1992.

Study participants were asked, "During the past year, on an average day (not counting time spent at your job), how many hours a day did you spend sitting (watching television, reading, etc.)?"

After adjusting for smoking, height/weight, and other factors, Patel's team found that compared to sitting less than three hours a day, sitting six or more hours a day:

  • Increased the death rate by about 40% in women
  • Increased the death rate by about 20% in men
  • Increased the death rate by 94% in the least active women
  • Increased the death rate by 48% in the least active men

It wasn't just that they weren't getting exercise. Patel and colleagues found that sitting itself was detrimental to health.

Sitting increased risk of cancer death, but the main death risk linked to sitting was heart disease.

"It is beneficial to encourage sedentary individuals to stand up and walk around as well as to reach optimal levels of physical activity," Patel and colleagues conclude.

The study findings appear in the July 22 early online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

SOURCES: Patel, A.V. American Journal of Epidemiology, published online July 22, 2010.

News release, American Cancer Society.

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