Science Scope

Why sitting can make you die earlier

Posting in Cancer

Researchers say sitting can shed years off of your life. The less you sit, the longer you'll live. Here's why.

It turns out having a desk job can increase your risk of death.

Sure, we all know that we should spend more time exercising. But why? In a new study, American Cancer Society researchers exploring the association of mortality and sitting time suggest that a sedentary lifestyle actually has specific biological consequences.

Researchers surveyed 123,216 healthy people (part of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention II study in 1992) and found that people who spent their days sitting down have a higher risk of mortality.

During a time period of 1993 to 2006, researchers found that women who sat down for at least 6 hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die when compared to women who sat for 3 hours a day during the time period studied. For the same time period, men who sat down for 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than their standing counterparts.

Women were 94 percent and men were 48 percent "more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active."

"Several factors could explain the positive association between time spent sitting and higher all-cause death rates," Dr. Alpa Patel said in a statement. "Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin, which are biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular and other chronic diseases."

Not only can sitting down make you more likely to stuff your face with food, it can also weaken your immune system and thus increase your risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

But the association discussed in the study warrants further investigation. The data was self-reported and there wasn't enough data on occupational physical activity. Plus, distinguishing the different types of sitting a person was doing is important. Lets face it: the difference between a stuck-in-traffic driver, a couch potato, and an anxious worker should be accounted for.

As a sit-down journalist, most of my time is spent sitting in front of a computer. I guess, it's time for me to go for a morning walk!


Photo: Crate & Barrel

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure