Sitting all day linked to an early death — and exercise won’t help

Researchers from the University of California-San Diego suggest that avoiding sedentary behavior (like sitting down all day) may be the secret to a longer life. Older women who sat for 11.7 hours or more daily saw their risk of death jump by 30 percent – even if they exercised vigorously!


Study shows sitting all day increases risk of early death

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego has found that sitting all day may be linked to an increased risk of early death. The study focused on older women who sat for 11.7 hours or more each day and found that their risk of death was 30 percent higher, even if they engaged in vigorous exercise.

The study used an impressive sample size of 6,489 women between the ages of 63 to 99. The participants wore monitors to track their time spent sitting and their daily activity for up to a week. The data was then analyzed over an eight-year period to monitor if any of the women died.

This study utilized a novel and validated machine-learned algorithm called CHAP, which accurately distinguished between standing and sitting. The algorithm was developed using machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques in order to accurately identify sedentary behavior.

Negative effects of excessive sitting cannot be reversed by exercise

The study revealed that exercise is unable to reverse the negative effects of excessive sitting. Whether women engaged in low or high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, the heightened risk of death remained if they also sat for long hours.

Sedentary behavior, in general, is unhealthy because it lowers muscle contractions, blood flow, and glucose metabolism. When sitting, blood flow throughout the body slows down, decreasing glucose uptake and diminishing muscle contraction. This study's findings suggest that exercise alone cannot counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

"If I take a brisk long walk for an hour but sit the rest of the day, I’m still accruing all the negative effects on my metabolism," says Prof. LaCroix.

Tips to reduce sitting time

The study recommends avoiding sitting for more than 11 hours per day and reducing the length of sedentary sessions. Sitting for longer periods at a time poses a higher risk than sitting for shorter intervals. The researchers suggest getting up and standing for a few minutes every hour, or every 20 minutes if possible.

However, the study also highlights that not all sitting is the same. Cognitive activities that involve sedentary behavior, such as sitting while studying a new language, may not have the same negative impact. Further research is needed to understand the specific effects of different types of sedentary behavior.

The study's findings have important implications for public health, emphasizing the need for reducing sedentary behavior and promoting regular physical activity to improve overall health outcomes.