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July 22nd, 2010
04:38 PM ET

Sitting, even after workout, can cut lifespan


A new study debunks the theory that an hour of exercise a day is all you need to live a long life. Turns out, people who spend more time sitting during their leisure time have an increased risk of death, regardless of daily exercise.

American Cancer Society researchers tracked the activity levels and death rates in more than 123,000 healthy men and women for 13 years. They found women who spend over six hours a day sitting during leisure time (watching TV, playing games, surfing the web, reading) were 40 percent more likely to die sooner than women who spend less than three hours sitting. Men who spend more time sitting have a 20 percent increased risk of death. Essentially, those who sit less, live a longer life than those who don't.

Several factors come into play when figuring out “why” sitting may take years off your life.

The first may seem like common sense. The more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to passively eat snacks or consume high calories drinks resulting in unhealthy weight gain. But this isn’t always the case. Sedentary obese and normal weight Americans had similar increased risk of death in the study.

Prolonged time sitting suppresses your immune system, which may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. And your blood isn’t circulating as it should when you’re sedentary for long periods of time. When blood doesn’t flow thru your veins up to your heart, it could lead to dangerous blood clot. It also has metabolic consequences – increasing your resting blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Researchers say the metabolic effect may explain why the association was strongest for cardiovascular disease mortality in the study.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemology suggests, “public health guidelines should be refined to include reducing time spent sitting in addition to promoting physical activity.”

So as you keep your brain stimulated with your smart phones, video games and gadgets, wireless apps and paperless books – walk around or stand up while playing your favorite game. You may add years to your life.


soundoff (340 Responses)
  1. well great

    well great, so what are we supposed to do when work requires us to sit in a cubical 8-12 hours a day, quit our job? this is ridiculous. i wouldn't even BE here if i had any choice in the matter.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      Right. Now sitting is bad for you. Next week standing/walking will be bad for you. Make up you're minds!

      I sit rather alot (most of it is during work hours, and I sometimes stand or pace to get the blood flowing again). But I walk everywhere as I don't have a car. I also exercise 1-2 hrs daily, exceptions on weekends as I'm running up and down the stairs doing laundry, cleaning my home, walking to and from the store (just over 2 miles, and I rarely get rides).

      July 23, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  2. Melissa

    What a bunch of fear mongering crap.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ferd

    Life is a deadly disease, we will not come out of it alive,so with precautions, let´s embrace it fully while it lasts!!

    July 23, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ali

    It is an impressive finding. There has to be a physical wisdom in practicing prayers 5 times a day in the Islamic culture. The simple movements of bowing, leaning to the ground, lifting up the body and your hands, all of which are a 10 minutes exercise to increase blood circulation and cut the monotone. Of course, that is in addition to its psychological and divine values. These are practices distributed along the day starting the moment you wake up until you go to sleep.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      This is a major value to yoga and Tai Chi as well. But as you can see, the majority of Americans believe you can be sedentary and not suffer the consequences. That would be why Americans are obese, diabetic and prone to heart disease. Just deserves for the "give me" mantra.

      July 27, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
  5. EricLr

    This is why I prefer laying.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. maggie

    You can never add time to your life span, you can only reduce it. So when do things right you live your entire time. For example, if someone was to live 90 years but he or she drinks heavily, smokes, uses drugs, has many partners and involves in unprotected sex, diet is very high in saturated fat, and does not exercise. If he or she makes to 60 then he is lucky. However, some of us do change our behavior when we realize it is detrimental to our well being but usually some of the damages are not reversible.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. karen

    Some of these responses are hilarious. Can someone publish a "study" that sais just being born and living is hazardous to your health because that means the minute you are born, you are on the road to death ? I can't believe people are so gullible as to pay attention to these fear mongering articles anymore. We live in a culture of fear. When did this start ? Be fearful of anything and everything.
    I don't think I sat down for 35 years. As an ICU nurse for all those years, we never had time to take a pee, literally, never mind sit down. Then there was skiing, showing horses, and I'm an avid tennis player. Now I have so much arthritis from all this "activity" I sit down at every chance I get. So this is a trade-off?

    July 23, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Megan

    well crap. I sit at work for 8 hours a day, not including the 2 hours total commuting 5 days a week.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Matt

    The question I have in regards to these types of studies is who or what funds the research? The findings are so pedantic and have no real utility that I think it's just a waste of time and money. Just my thoughts of course but I could've guessed the outcome of a sedentary lifestyle leading to an early demise without a full blown study. Any thoughts?

    July 23, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. marc

    What a joke..........BEING BORN will shorten yer lifespan!!!!!! Give us a break with these ridiculous "studies"!!!!

    July 23, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. notyourname

    So... how much of a shorter lifespan on average will you get if you sit? I didn't see that in the article, and there's probably no statistical correlation between the actual lifespans. Can't tell if this is poor science or poor science reporting.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Robin

    This article is bogus and not fact. First you are making a false connection between Sittlng and lifestyle – you falesly assuming that people who sit are more likely to eat junk, sip sugary soda, not true! And then to associate sitting with increased risk in cancer is not only far fetched but it is irresponsible journalism. You should be ashamed.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. C Mac

    Yeah, this is great research, but if we followed the results and started working standing up, and having kids stand in the classroom there would be another study, 20 years later, saying that it's bad on your joints and shortens your lifespan when you spend so much time standing because it crushes blood vessels in your feet, or makes your heart work harder to pump blood against gravity. Too much of any one thing is bad. Yes, you should get up and move around. Take your kids and play outside when you get home from work. Enjoy life and yes, get off the couch evey once in a while.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Matt

    What's the article about? I keep staring at the picture.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. amy kang

    Even long time ago, I already found sitting is the worst thing , at least for me. Try to believe it if u were smart enough.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jin

    One question is whether people sleeping more will be more likely to die earlier. If the study are true without cofounding, what should we do ? It is likely that a school class schedule (a 10-15 minutes break of every hour), in addition to the recommended 30-60 minutes exercise, could help a lot for those that they do have to sit to work, study, write, and so on for long hours every day. Listen to music and exercise should be good. Music and Human Health at http://www.sjmedmusic.com.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Karla Finney

    This is all crap, next week they'll come out with a 'report' that you'll live longer if you don't walk so much, or it you sit in a certain position for so many hours a day...good God. It's just like with the egg. Every other week, "eat eggs! , they're good for you!" , next week, "Don't eat egg's !they will kill you !!", yadda, yadda, yadda. People fall for it every single time. pity.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Mike

    For Lady Lost, on the wheelchair, since the matter is circulation, if you use your arms, and pump a small weight up and down every say two hours, it will keep your heart beating strong, and it will improve your circulation. The message should be, move what you can. Not just stand up, to not make those who cannot, feel sad. So HELLO LADY LOST.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Luke

    Can you please post a citation for the journal article so we can find it in Pubmed?

    July 23, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mac Carter

    Great news for those of us who work in offices.
    Like we needed to hear this.

    July 23, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Gwen

    I just turned 81 and have had two major operations in two years which is the only time I ever slowed down. I worked off and on my feet until I was 75. Now I have problems with balance and weakness ever since my operations and I don't walk outside anymore. I bought a great treadmill from Gold's Gym and walk on it 3 times a day for 10 minutes where I can hang on to the rails and not be afraid of falling. I use a cane in the house but try and walk as much as possible to keep the blood flowing as I also have an irregular heart beat and take Cumadin. I feel lucky to have made it to 81 and as long as I can still make a damn good martini I am one of the lucky ones!!!!!

    July 23, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. James

    How about if I lie down instead of sit? What about sleeping?

    July 23, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jane

    For lady lost.. I've seen an exercise show on TV called sit and be fit that you might find helpful.

    July 23, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. BC

    How about another independent study to actually back up your findings? How many times have we heard that one study reached one conclusion and another study reached an opposite conclusion. These kinds of studies are not very scientific and leave a LOT of gray area. I personally disagree with their conclusions.

    July 23, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. henry

    Now I have an excuse to LAY around watching tv.

    July 23, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Joe

    But lets not forget, overall aren't lifespans increasing? And who wants to live longer if you can't relax and enjoy life? I can't see myself doing jumping jacks all day every day just to gain a few more days.

    July 23, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. vale

    Poor model in the photo: not only is she sitting, but her computer is also sitting...over the general vicinity of her ovaries, poisoning them with electrostatic energy. Not only is her life at risk from sitting and computing, but so is the life of her unborn child from the computer's energy emissions. And she seems blithely unaware. Should somebody speak to the poor soul?

    July 23, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. 7thID

    "chris" you're wrong about everyone sitting around watching TV eating chips-look at the explosion of marathons in the US- a 100 fold increase since 1980. Now it is fairly common for non-athletes to run these type of races and 4 hours is a respectible time. Gyms are in every town in America and Whole Foods is no longer fringe. I don't believe the vest bulk of America are obese lardasses sitting there drooling on themselves.

    July 23, 2010 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. kdc

    so... they mentioned eating? So what if you like to eat snacks standing up, but not sitting? Is sitting bad for you if you don't snack? Did they let the study participants eat a bunch of crap while sitting? And do they assume you are not eating at all while standing? This seems to me like a major flaw in the study!

    July 23, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. lego1234

    With every breath we get closer to death. Therefore, breathing is bad for your health. We should all stop it.

    July 23, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. EmCee

    Haven't been able to do much walking the past few years due to a spinal condition. Does that mean I'm going to die at an earlier age? I'm 82 1/2 .......

    July 23, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Phaedrus

    Good questions. The media is terrible at reporting these stories because they do not understand statistical analyses. Do people want to do exercises they find aversive an extra 3 hours a day for 30 years so they can live a week longer, or a day or 5 minutes.

    July 23, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Haha

    Oh news flash:

    Being alive increases the chance of dying......

    July 23, 2010 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. DP2010

    There's something to that circulation thing. I'm 9 months pregnant and, if I don't get up and walk around periodically, well, I'll spare you the details, but my ailments can be chalked up to circulation and walking is my go-to treatment. Legs up and supplements are good, but pale in effectiveness to walking. Counter-pressure is a temporary relief that ultimately leads to worse symptoms because it's the circulation that's so key.

    July 23, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jon

    The article says "during their leisure time". Would not the same medical principals also apply to work?

    July 23, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. zebra17

    Here's the thing. The "cut down's your life span" is at the tail end of your life anyway, say 82. Is there a big difference between the average person's quality of life at 82 vs 84/85? If anything, you get more infirm and more money flies out the door. If the study showed people dying say at 60 or 65 or 70, well that's another story. Maybe this sounds harsh, but what the heck.

    July 23, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. tawells

    Where are the references for the actual article? This story is all over popular news media but no one is referencing the details of the author, journal date/year. This has become a big problem with sensationalizing academic research, not allowing readers to actually read the original sources and instead allowing the writer to express their summary.

    July 23, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Starchild

    The headline alone is complete BS; what about people who are in wheelchairs? Stephen Hawking, etc. Lookout guys: you're going to die, regardless.

    July 23, 2010 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Whatever

    We're all damned if we do and damned if we don't. No matter what we do, some study is going to determine somewhere along the line that we were doing it wrong and now we're supposed to do it differently. Just live your life!

    July 23, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Al

    What a load of garbage! A 20-40% risk of dying sooner than what? Than the guy I saw being resuscitated today because he was jogging in 90+ heat? Live your life the way you want, and when it's over, then it's over. It's a zero sum game kids.

    July 23, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. John

    This just in. An addendum to the study. In addition to humans dying from sitting so much, scientists find that horses and cows are going to live forever. After the human race is eradicated, cows and horses will be the last ones... standing. Moooooo....

    July 24, 2010 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jim

    I sit frequent of meditation retreats, 6-8-10 hours day on a meditation cushion cross-legged on the floor. While coincidence does not imply causality, I just had a risk-factor-free heart attack.

    July 24, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. James

    That's odd. Even after adjusting for BMI AND exercise they report a higher mortality. Maybe there is a background factor. People who sit more thn 6 hours are likely to have an indoors job. So they lack sunshine and thus are likely to be Vitamin D deficient.

    July 25, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ghs1999

    I would like to make a request:
    When you are writing an article about a research study, could you. uhm. I don't know. Include a real reference to the ACTUAL study please. Some of us actually want to follow up on your very bland and overly simplified blog.

    July 26, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. chynadoll13154

    They say yoga can counter-balance this, as being upside down negates the effects or something. I don't know. I do yoga and I like it. I also hate to sit. I never want a desk job because sitting for long periods sounds like torture.

    July 27, 2010 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. bob

    I think I understand the 40% figure. If you have a group of 10,000 people who have just reached their 80th birthday, actuarial table would predict that a certain percentage, say 10%, would die before reaching their 81st birthday. Let’s also assume these 10,000 people have been equally selected to have 5,000 living a sedentary lifestyle and 5,000 living an active lifestyle. You would expect 500 of the sedentary people to die in one year. If 700 died, that was 40% more than expected.

    July 27, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. bob in calif

    here is the original article

    ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTION:
    Alpa V. Patel, Leslie Bernstein, Anusila Deka, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Peter T. Campbell, Susan M. Gapstur, Graham A. Colditz, and Michael J. Thun
    Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults
    Am. J. Epidemiol., Advance Access published on July 22, 2010; doi: doi:10.1093/aje/kwq155
    ......Original Contribution Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective...Evidence supports that reducing time spent sitting, regardless of activity, may improve the...Society to examine leisure time spent sitting and physical activity in relation to mortality......

    You need to be a subscriber to the American Journal of Epidemology to view it though.

    July 27, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. nanobot

    Yes, the study points out the obvious but yet, we expect our small children to sit still in school while their basal ganglia wither in their brains from lack of activity. And why do we have ADHD? And yes, 90 year old grandma always said, "idle hands are the devils worshop", and we KNEW she was right. So what DO we do if we are confined to a wheelchair? The logical solution is a vibrating chair. The point is you must get your blood moving around, this is key for the health of platelets and reducing their role in cardiovascular events and cancer. Amazingly, doctors are still impervious to the evidence that venous stasis (lack of blood flow) in the brain causes a large degree of the pathology in MS. Oh yes, the evidence has been there for decades, but they prefer to treat the downstream effects of autoimmunity than the cause of poor blood drainage in the brain. CCSVI (chronic cerebro spinal venous insufficiency) has got the MS population protesting and picketing in some cases. They go to Poland and numerous locations for the unblocking of the veins, WITH MIRACULOUS RESULTS. Trust me folks, just keep that blood flowing. Grammatical errors in this story are of miniscule importance compared to the life saving message it brings. But you guys, go read your dictionaries. Fun!!

    July 27, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Betsy Movado

    I really love the way you described that. Thanks for going into so much detail.

    December 17, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Walter Baldwin

    I really love the way you described that. Thanks for going into so much detail. If you don't mind I'm going to adda link to my blog to this post. That really was quite clever.

    January 10, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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