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 (370 Responses)
  1. Keith Andreassen

    How the hell are you not suppose to sit for more than 3 hours?

    July 23, 2010 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. json

    "Turns out, people who spend more time sitting during their leisure time have an increased risk of death..".. so you mean to say if you do a lot of standing you'll never die?

    July 23, 2010 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. PabloD

    Apparently, a correlation was found between sitting more and dying earlier. However, "correlation" does not mean the same thing as "cause". You can't say that sitting more *causes* you to die earlier. You can only say that the people who sat more tended to die earlier. Maybe they sat more because they were depressed. Maybe their depression caused health problems that, in turn, caused them to die earlier.

    July 23, 2010 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      Very good point. Depression is correlated with widespread inflammation, obviously a risk factor for increased mortality.

      July 27, 2010 at 18:19 | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    I hate these studies. They almost never make sense and the only thing less meaningfull then the study itself is the "summary" of the study we ultimately end up reading on sites like CNN.
    So are they saying women with desk jobs are 40% more likely to die sooner even if they're in shape? Are they saying that a person who works out every day for 2 hours after spending 6 hours sitting at work is more likely to die? Does this mean that laying down to sleep at night is weakening our immune systems? If a woman works out for 6 hours on a bike is she 40% more likely to die sooner?
    I suppose we're going to start seeing infomercials for "standing" machines that involve no actually exercise that will keep us all from dying prematurely.
    Steven Hawking just can't catch a break.

    July 23, 2010 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      You need to recognize that multiple factors contribute to any end measure. In science, we isolate a single variable to prove it has the causal role, however, in the real world, multiple factors contribute. Sometimes in science it's better therefore to isolate clusters of variables for a more robust causality proof. However, this isn't done very often and is an obvious hindrance especially when pharmaceuticals are being given in cocktail regimens without EVER being tested in such a format.

      July 27, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  5. okay

    It doesn't matter what you do in life, according to this article. Even the title says,"Sitting, even after a workout, can cut life span." Skinny, fat, active, sedentary, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER...

    July 23, 2010 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Paul Gibbs

    Hey folks, the article doesn't require this much chatter. Hope you are all sitting while wasting time analysing grammer and CNN accuracy. Perhaps you will all be in the 40 percentile which may free up space for more interesting banter.

    July 23, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PabloD

      I'd like to apologize on behalf of everyone who posted comments for not obtaining your permission first.

      July 23, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      TO YOUR HIGHEST MAJESTY PAUL GIBBS: I personally apologize for your oversight in not recognizing the vast health implications that activated platelets play in maintaining the health of humans. I understand it must not seem very relevant that activated platelets produce more than 60 biochemically potent products upon stimulation, which result in immunosuppression and coagulation cascades which are at the very heart of cancer research and cardiovascular remodeling. The very fact that platelet interaction with pluripotent monocytes is an effector in PPAR genetic regulation and therefore a major promoter of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia is SOOOOO INSIGNIFICANT, that we should probably just turn our attention to YOU.

      July 27, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
    • Ooh, U-Q-T-Pi

      @nanobot & Mr. Deltoid:

      You both have impressed me with your level of intelligence. I regret, though, that you are having to waste your time on the stupidity (and repetitive stupidity) found in the comments being posted here. I applaud you both for your patience with the lack of thought being demonstrated.

      @Paul Gibbs:

      I agree. I feel that there is a huge amount of “chatter” from people who did not read the “artickle” (that was for you Mr. Deltoid – your comment was hysterical, thank you) completely or have failed to understand what the author was trying to communicate. I do not concur with your comment on ‘freeing up space’, although, I must confess that I did giggle.

      July 28, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
  7. Palin=Mensa

    We need someone who can get in there, get people moving and jumping and buzzing around again don't cha' know!? Our health folks, is the most important thing to our health. Media don't get that.

    Sarah Palin 2012.

    July 23, 2010 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Squeeker

    Sitting, laying, walking, waddling – I don't care! I'm just tired of looking at HUGE, FAT A$$ES in the U.S.! Step away from the trough people – life is not an all-you-can-eat buffet!!!

    July 23, 2010 at 02:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Waterfalls

      You're so rude, I can't believe I'm even responding to you. Everyone who has a weight issue (and believe me, it's all over the world, not just in the U.S.A.) has it for a different reason. Who are you to judge how they live their lives? Your comment was very shallow.

      July 23, 2010 at 08:11 | Report abuse |
  9. Dan

    Who's lucky enough to have 6 hours a day of leisure time to start with?

    July 23, 2010 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Wishy

    Firstly, what is the worry about "increased risk of death?" Excuse me, if I remember correctly, everyone dies. As Dr. Kevorkian said, "We're all terminal."

    Secondly, I hope no one takes this article seriously. Yes, this is a blog, but as aforementioned, it's run by THE largest news network - THE "most trusted name in news" - and I'm sorry, but if you don't believe typing full words and having adequate grammar skills are part of your job description in writing articles, you should not have the job you have. There are many writers, journalists, who are itching and dreaming for a job like this. Even unpaid.

    Thirdly, the general tone of the article alarms me. There are not adamant details, as also mentioned in other comments...

    Oh, how angry things of this sort make me...

    July 23, 2010 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. almxx

    Thanks for the hearty laugh.

    July 23, 2010 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. a

    So we better use WII in our free time :D.

    July 23, 2010 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Brett

    I don't quite buy it. The biggest problem with the study is that it obviously required that people recall how much time they spend sitting, as a habit of lifestyle, over x number of years. Accurate recall in these types of studies is notoriously difficult, especially as people tend to recall in a way that supports how they view themselves. Ergo, the person who is less health conscious in general is more likely to report sitting for longer periods, since emotionally it seems like the right response, and conversely someone who is more health conscious in general will report less sitting since that fits the image they're trying to create. Just how much sitting person A and person B are doing remains unknown, as their responses are attributions of their outlook.

    July 23, 2010 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mr frank

    cut your losses mr. deltoid, and move on! pshh....so obv you work for da slang dum-dums.

    July 23, 2010 at 03:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Yaacov Hayman

    The problem with the study is that "correlation" does not prove "causation." It may be that people who sit longer are people who are less healthy to begin with and are therefore less active. There must be a parameter in a study like this which makes ii possible to factor out poor health.

    July 23, 2010 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      Undoubtedly, as with any study published in a peer reviewed journal, they controled for variables such as age, previous health conditions, dietary habits in the two study groups. This makes it so that the ONLY diffeence between the "sedentary" group and the "active" group is this one variable. But, you'd have to go find the original paper. Someone posted the link on this blog.

      July 27, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  16. Dr. Christoph Kraiker

    As has been pointed our before, the central message:

    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.

    is nonsense. especially that men ... have a 20 % increased risk of death is really stupid. Everybody dies. There is a standard way to report results like this. In this case you would report the average length of life for those who sit a long time und those who sit a short time, separated for men and women. 'The difference is called effect size. If this effect size is small and unimportant, you can report something else that sounds grandiose like statistical "significance" or percentages without recignizable referende points.
    My guess is, that "long sitters" have a life a couple of days shorter than the others. But this is not an experiment. so no causal relationships can be established. For instance, perhaps frail people tend to sit longer and die earlier because they are frail, not because they sit.

    July 23, 2010 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      If you are going to criticize the study design, which was a 13 year longitudinal study, you had best go to the peer reviewed journal, because I am certain that all of your assertions are fictitious.

      July 28, 2010 at 00:45 | Report abuse |
  17. Maggie LaNoue

    Who has six hours of leisure time a day? I sit too much at work, but when I am done with "work" then I garden, take care of a house, cook, laundry etc. I do like to keep a laptop at the kitchen counter when I am cooking etc, so I guess that is nice to be able to login and still stand up. I'd like to see a study of those who live in a two story house versus one story house or apartment. Do people who go up and down stairs over 20 times a day live longer or just wear out? Do people who sit to read for an hour or so get any brownie points in the longevity department?

    July 23, 2010 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. runner305

    If I was with that babe in the picture, we would neither be sitting NOR walking!

    July 23, 2010 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Joja

    Hey Deltoid, is there something going thru your ass right now!

    July 23, 2010 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply

    Oh yeah another study
    If one had the time and the resources one could find that everything you do, say, eat, drink or even think can be hazzardous to your health according to studies and researches.

    July 23, 2010 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. tina

    so you're saying I should watch tv standing up then?
    I'm unclear on what sort of action I should take. Does lying on the couch have the same effect or is it only sitting? What if I fall asleep at my desk? Does that count?

    July 23, 2010 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Rick

    So the monks living until they are 100 years old could actual live to 140? If only those monks would stop sitting and meditating for weeks, months and even years. They even slow down their blood from circulating on purpose! Can someone please let the Dalai Lama know?

    July 23, 2010 at 06:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Michael

    This isn't really a reliable story. What other factors are there? I imagine that those who sit less are also more likely to workout more often and on a more regular schedule as well as eat better foods. So, is it the not sitting or is it the foods or regularity of things that really corresponds to longer life.

    Ultimately, just because someone lives a long life doesn't necessarily mean they live a hppy life. I'd rather go happy and short than long and miserable.

    July 23, 2010 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Martin


    July 23, 2010 at 06:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jiuri

    I don't think is reliable . One like sitting or standing depends on their habbit ,someone even like to eat junk food when they walk.

    July 23, 2010 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Beth

    so what is an admin person who works 4 10 hour days suppose to do?? I sit at a desk, I don't like sitting at a desk, can't stand it really but it's part of my job... how am I suppose to only sit three hours?? It seems that no matter what we do someone will find fault with it... If all my vital statistics are normal, I run and ride my bike daily, I guess I shouldn't worry at all about sitting at work... Granted I would much rather not have a desk job but I do...

    July 23, 2010 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Mattski

    This one falls under the category "a waste of perfectly good research money". It's like saying breathing shortens our lifespan. Because even if it's true, what do we do - stand more?

    July 23, 2010 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      Yes, we stand more. We take more intermissions from sitting, and we change schools to allow children the needed time to "stretch their legs". People are so unaware of their condition of being unaware.

      July 28, 2010 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
  28. Jim

    People ask 'When you going to retire?' I say I ain't! If I go home and sit I'm a dead man. I'll keep my butt moving and work until I'm 70 (or so).

    July 23, 2010 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Ballz

    duh – bet you didnt know it but if you try to breathe water, it doesnt work...
    Sitting increases the chance of death eh? I thought it was already 100% guaranteed.

    July 23, 2010 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. jeff

    So will they finally buy me a bed to lie in at work since sitting is now killing me quicker!

    July 23, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sit = Fail

    This just in :
    Being born is the highest cause of death. Over to you Diane

    July 23, 2010 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. waqar qureshi

    my heart goes out to all the IT People out there.
    We are addicted to our laptops and hours seem like minutes when u sit on a chair in front of a laptop, with programming on ur mind. I used to get pain in my knees, sitting, during long working days, when i was in the zone, programming for loooong hours. now i have started taking walks in between sessions which helped in reducing pains.


    July 23, 2010 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Waterfalls

    "Prolonged time sitting suppresses your immune system, which may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases."

    What is "prolonged sitting?" Is the immune response suppressed if you stand up every hour, walk around a bit, then get back to your reading, computer, etc?

    "It also has metabolic consequences – increasing your resting blood pressure and cholesterol levels. "

    That's the opposite of what studies show daily meditation does, so now, I'm confused.

    July 23, 2010 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Waterfalls

    I don't like this word. The dictionary calls it an "informal" spelling. Informal spelling is difficult to take seriously.
    But it's not that important, considering CNN often reminds me of a tabloid.

    July 23, 2010 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RS

    Stupid article. Not much details substantiating the claim. The same article could be read as people who exercise have a 60% chance of living longer. As this factor is already known and accepted, the writer comes up with this whole "sitting" issue. Useless and amateurish article.

    July 23, 2010 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. runamukus

    What really sucks is we are all going to die – whether it be sitting or standing while we all work our lives away. Sad isn't it?

    July 23, 2010 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Emerson

    When one reaches a certain age and has joint problems from too much activity, it is more comfortable and seems less painless to sit or even lie down for greater periods. One doesn't usually want twenty more years if one is in a lot of pain. When the quality of life is reduced, one naturally slows down. Until science and medicine can find some real answers to pain management, why not sit more?

    July 23, 2010 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike

      It's a vicious cycle. If you don't start sitting around in the first place, then you won't slow down. I've had neighbors in their 80's that still job, ride bicycles, shovel their driveways, etc – and not because they are tryign to stay active, these are just the people who enjoy life and get out there. Really, it's all the fault of the TV if you ask me. If their was no TV, it would be too boring to sit for 4 – 6 hours every night.

      July 23, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
  38. dave

    Who did this research and how much did they pay them for this worthless piece of dribble. Know wonder there has never been a cure for cancer, there are just to many reasons for why we might get it.

    July 23, 2010 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. mike

    WHY DOES SITTING RESULT IN A LACK OF HEALTH, YOU ASK? I don't believe it is actually the SITTING that is the cause. People who don't sit around during there liesure time are just naturally doing other good things for theirselves – like eating natural foods, keeping their brain active, having a fun time in a way that decreases stress, etc etc. People who have to force themselves to do an hour of excercise and then go back to the couch are people who don't have all the healthy habits that lead towards a longer life. They derive fun from drinking alcohol, let the TV turn their brain to mush, etc.

    It's just like those studies that say "people who are healthy have alot of Oat Bran in their diet, so if you eat Oat Bran cereal then you'll be healthy". WRONG WRONG WRONG – people who eat Oat Bran have a higher incididence of just naturally doing the right things in their life – one forcing theirself to eat some oat bran doesn't cause healthiness.

    My real point though is that I am amazed at how the people who do these studies ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS seem to miss the point. It's just like Jesus said – you have ears but you cannot hear, you have eyes but you cannot see.

    Most people think these studies are performed by learned professionals, but most of the time the media is drawing on studies by unpracticed thesis students doing the study as part of their Graduation Requirements. Even if the student is failing, the media quotes their study as "scientists say..." or "a group of scientists studied blah blah blah...".

    It's like living in a society of Orangutangs...

    July 23, 2010 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nanobot

      Sitting causes pooling of the blood, especially in the valves in the lower legs. Venous stasis has been studied for a long time and is known to result in "platelet activation" which is a profound cascade of biochemical reactions of platelets. These effects cause blood vessels to become leaky, resulting in inflammation and blood pressure issues. Autoimmunity can result. Plaque formation is known to cause MI and stroke which will put you in the grave right away and is caused by those pesky platelets. The drugs used to treat cardiovascular disease? Work on platelets. We did not evolve sitting and we are not adapted to sitting for long periods of time. It's not a hard concept.

      July 27, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  40. Answers1

    Adjust your tinfoil hat- April Fool's was 4 months ago.

    July 23, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Els

    Can someone explain to me how I can get "six hours of leisure" a day? The article talked only about sitting during leisure time; I guess sitting at work makes no difference in life expectancy?

    Let's see – if I worked a mere 8 hours a day (I wish!) and had an hour lunch and reasonable commute time, plus 8 hours to sleep, and maybe had a shower and dinner – there would not be 6 hours left in the day for leisure. So am I to assume that the study was only of people without full time jobs?

    July 23, 2010 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Joe SS

    OK, I'm into the scientific discussion here, but I have to ask: Did this writer seriously just use the word "thru" with a straight face? "When blood doesn’t flow thru your veins ...."

    July 23, 2010 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe SS

      Oops...I see that Waterfalls already complained about this. Looks like I'm not much better at reading for detail than whoever copyedits for CNN!

      July 23, 2010 at 09:19 | Report abuse |
  43. Bear

    If they had controlled for BMI and other ailments this would be a much more interesting study. The fact that the vast majority of obese and sick individuals would be in the "sitting group" seems to make the results a foregone conclusion.

    Also, where is the average lifespan comparison between these two groups? Do sitters on average die 1 year earlier, or 10 years earlier? If its only a 1 year difference, filtering out the obese and ill from the study could easily push the "healthy sitters" group to a longer lifespan than the standers/exercisers.

    July 23, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Valerie

    Well, first off, as a working wife and mother, I WISH I had 6 hours of leisure time a day!

    Secondly, I am not going to be "moving constantly" just to secure an extra couples years of life, that is just stupid.

    Basically this stupid research only suggests what we already know, moving more is good for you.

    July 23, 2010 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Joe

    What about laying down for more than 3 hours on my days off....?

    July 23, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Renait

    Wow. What's the point of even trying? I exercise more than an hour a day, which is a real struggle for me. But it isn't helping? That's it. I'm done.

    July 23, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Connie

    I bet I wouldn't be so sore from workout every day if I could work standing instead of sitting on my butt for 8 hours, but how to change that is the problem.

    July 23, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. The_Mick

    I spent a career teaching, where I stood the entire day. After that, I was usually coaching a varsity sports team for 3-5 hours. After that I sat as much as I could – otherwise I'd probably not have survived. As a scientist, I'll wait for a follow-up to this study. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Bobson

    "When blood doesn’t flow thru your veins up to your heart, it could lead to dangerous blood clot."



    July 23, 2010 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. HMmom

    I am not sure about this article. My grandmother lived to be over 83 years old. She had severe asthma her entire life and never exerted any energy other than cooking. Her parents both died by the time she was 2 years old because of gall bladder issues – so I am not sure if she had "good genes" or not.

    July 23, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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