Stand up before you keel over: Sitting increases risk of dying in three years by 40%
10:46 GMT, 27 March 2012
Sitting down for 11 hours or more per day increases your chances of dying within three years – whether you're physically active or not.
The study from the University of Sydney found those who were sedentary for half the day had a 40 per cent increased risk, even when physical activity and weight was taken into account.
Get to your feet: Standing when you take a phone call or walking around the office can help reduce the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle
Study leader Dr Hidde van der Ploeg, said: 'These results have important public health implications.
'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, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more.'
The results showed physical activity is still beneficial: inactive people who sat the most had double the risk of dying within three 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.
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 per cent 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.
Heart Foundation CEO Tony Thirlwell said being inactive was a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for more than 17 million deaths a year worldwide.
'Watching TV, using computers and electronic games can involve sitting for long periods and have become a big part of leisure time,' he said.
'But we know that people who spend less time on these things have better health than those who spend too much time on them.'
A major five-year follow-up of 45 and Up study participants has just begun and will ask 265,000 men and women more about their health, lifestyle, and the medications and health services they use.
Such large-scale research will help governments face the challenges of an ageing population.