According to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Canadian researchers, there is a serious risk of illness or even premature death from too much sitting on a regular basis. Importantly, it appears this tendency cannot be erased by regular physical exercise.
Using data from 47 previous studies, the research team concluded that continued daily sitting was correlated to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, including colorectal cancer.
Importantly, even if the subjects being evaluated exercised on a regular basis, they still faced lower health outcomes if they sat for long periods of time.
Nonetheless, participants who did little or no exercise had an even higher risk of developing these malignancies.
“We found the association relatively consistent across all diseases. A pretty strong case can be made that sedentary behavior and sitting is probably linked with these diseases,” study author Aviroop Biswas, a Ph.D. candidate at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network, said in a news release. “When we’re standing, certain muscles in our body are working very hard to keep us upright. Once we sit for a long time . . . our metabolism is not as functional, and the inactivity is associated with a lot of negative effects”, he added.
According to the authors, prolonged sitting included periods of 8 to 12 daily hours. Researchers noted that many daily sedentary activities such as driving, computer usage and watching TV, should not account for more than 4 to 5 hours of an individual’s daily routine.
“We found that exercise is very good, but it’s what we do across our day. Exercise is just one hour in our day, if we’re diligent; we need to do something when we’re not otherwise exercising, like finding excuses to move around, take the stairs, or carry groceries rather than use the [shopping cart] at the supermarket”, Biswas explained.
Concerning cancer incidence, the team found that colon, breast, uterine and ovarian cancers were the ones with a higher association to sedentary habits.
“The idea that we could exercise for 15 or 20 minutes a day and that could completely erase any harms of a sedentary lifestyle for the other 23 hours a day is just too hopeful,” Dr. Joshua Septimus, a clinical associate professor of internal medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, added in the news release. “This showed us that yes, there is some benefit to physical activity . . . but it’s not enough.”