People who spend hours each day without getting up and moving around should take heed: A new study suggests that the more people sit each day, the greater their risk for chronic health problems, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers from Australia and Kansas State University said their findings have implications for office workers, truck drivers and other people who regularly sit for long periods of time. To reduce the risk of chronic disease, the study authors concluded that people should sit less, and move more.
"We know that with very high confidence that more physically active people do better with regard to chronic disease compared with less physically active people, but we should also be looking at reducing sitting," Richard Rosenkranz, assistant professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, said in a university news release.
Long hours at the office decreases energy levels
"A lot of office jobs that require long periods of sitting may be hazardous to your health because of inactivity and the low levels of energy expenditure," he explained.
The study involved over 63 000 Australian men from New South Wales, ranging in age from 45 to 65. The researchers questioned the men about whether or not they had various chronic diseases. The men also reported how many hours they spent sitting down each day.
The study revealed that the men who sat for four hours or less daily were much less likely to have a chronic condition - such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure - than those who sat for more than four hours each day. And the men who sat for at least six hours daily were at significantly greater risk for diabetes, the researchers noted.
Chronic diseases up when sitting
The number of chronic diseases reported increased along with sitting time. This was true even after the investigators took the men's physical activity level, age, income, education, weight and height into account.
"We saw a steady stair-step increase in risk of chronic diseases the more participants sat. The group sitting more than eight hours clearly had the highest risk," said Rosenkranz.
"It's not just that people aren't getting enough physical activity, but it's that they're also sitting too much," he said. "And on top of that, the more you sit, the less time you have for physical activity."
The study authors noted it's not entirely clear if sitting time leads to the development of chronic diseases or if it's the other way around: "It's a classic case of, 'Which came first: The chicken or the egg?'" Rosenkranz pointed out in the news release.
The study was published online recently in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the benefits of physical activity.