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Less sitting may lead to longer life
July 9th, 2012
06:30 PM ET

Less sitting may lead to longer life

What would happen if the entire population of adults in the U.S. reduced the amount of time they spent sitting or watching television?

Researchers, whose work is published in the British Medical Journal Open, say Americans may live longer. They estimate a gain of two years to life expectancy for reducing sitting to less than three hours a day, or an additional 1.38 years if everybody limited the time they spent plopped in front of the television to two hours.

"Right now, if you're born in the U.S. this year, your life expectancy is 78.5 years," said Peter Katzmarzyk, Professor of Epidemiology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "What we're saying is, if you got everyone in the U.S. to sit less, that population-level life expectancy would be two years higher. Our life expectancy as a country would be 80 years."

Keep in mind that this research is based on associations, not causes. The researchers did not prove that sitting more is the cause of earlier death. But they examined previous evidence that sitting appears to have detrimental effects on lifestyle.

Katzmarzyk, along with I-Min Lee at Harvard Medical School in Boston, quantified the behavior to see the effect on the life expectancy of Americans.

They studied five prior studies, which involved 167,000 men and women ages 18 to 90, which were done in several different countries. They looked at the health risks of sitting and then used the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, to determine how prevalent sedentary behavior is in U.S. society.

"A lot of people are sitting a lot and a lot of people are watching a lot of TV," he added. "So when you combine these two things, that's when you get the true population risk."

Katzmarzyk stresses that the study is not comparing people who are sedentary versus those who are active, but instead looks at the country as a whole.

"We know at an individual level that sitting's bad for you, but by putting this at the level of the population and life expectancy, we understand that it is such a frequent behavior that it's just as important as obesity, it's just as important as activity, it's just as important as smoking," he said.

Studies about interventions to get people to sit less are something that he hopes to see, especially in the workplace. In addition, Katzmarzyk says he would like to see research guiding Americans on how much sitting exactly is "too much."

"Right now, all we can say is we want people to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting," he said. "We can't actually say what that magic number is."

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week.

"You can meet those guidelines but you can still be very sedentary (or sit a lot) so they're kind of separate risk factors," he added.

Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and CNNhealth.com's diet and fitness expert, was not surprised by the study.

"We really need to try to be more active in general," she said.

Jampolis gives the following suggestions to turn a sedentary day into an active one.

–Get up and move at work

–Stand and chat at the water cooler instead of e-mailing

–Build in more active/less sedentary activities on weekends (think: park instead of movie theater), and try to limit TV time

And here are some ways to be happier at work, too.

"There is a lot of overlap between sedentary behavior and poor cardiometabolic markers, which can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease," Jampolis said.

Related: Sitting may shorten life


soundoff (377 Responses)
  1. Larry

    No sit, Sherlock!!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ivanhoe

    I wrote about this in novel - king of Bat'ha by Hashim

    July 9, 2012 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. t-bone

    Wouldnt it be better for the economy if we just let people die earlier.
    It would cut the need for the death panels in Obamacare too.

    July 9, 2012 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • scootfl78

      Death panels in Obamacare? What's the excuse for your ignorance? Were you educated by the Fox News network or were you just home schooled? Wait, seeing as how you seem to know how to type, I'll just take it you're blissfully bigoted and prejudiced against the truth.

      July 9, 2012 at 19:57 | Report abuse |
    • Iceman

      Hey bone head....the insurance companies we have now ARE death panels. Dump insurance companies and get a real National Health Care System...that is more than your pea brain can comprehend.....

      July 9, 2012 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
    • The Left Wing

      The home of death panels isn't in Obamacare. They reside with insurance companies. The only government run death panels I've heard of were under the control of the Republican Governor of Arizona.

      July 10, 2012 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
    • michiganandy

      Give t-bone a break folks. Look, slowly but surely the scared white man is waking up and seeing he has been blaming the wrong people and groups as a result of run of the mill brainwashing, which is so much easier yo do when you scare the crap out of people. Most cowardly white people like t-bone are easily manipulated into believing falsehoods, even when facts are overwhelmingly against them. It's a widespread mental illness in this country that needs to be confronted for what it is, this distortion or fabrication of realities to protect already debunked perceptions of who and what makes America. The whole right wing exists on it, and their house cards will not stand much longer, and it is just a matter of time before one brave GOP member stands up an declares the heck if I will allow my party to become the party of the crackpots and total nut cases. But to insult t-bone the way some of you are, it prevents the light of truth from reaching their shriveled up souls, and ultimately all it does is turn such folks into such horrible little creatures like Gollum, which I think would be a suitable name for this widespread mental illness infecting these right wing dillusionalists. I mean how easier would it be to deal with these folks when you could just say, "Oh, he is suffering from Gollum, poor creature."

      July 10, 2012 at 04:54 | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    Did you know that we all will ultimately die? That's the new cynicism.

    July 9, 2012 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris M

      I know, right? Eat lean meats, don't watch tv or surf the web for elongated periods of time, don't smoke, don't sit out in the sun, eat nothing but vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, don't drink too much alcohol, don't do drugs, don't have unprotected sex....or cut a few in and lose a few years...hmmm, since there are no guarantees that I won't get hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow, I think I'll go drink a few beers, eat a steak, and sit on my ass watching tv.

      July 9, 2012 at 20:07 | Report abuse |
    • Andre

      September 30th, 2008 at 2:27 pmdo me a favor tell me exactly WHY Schiff, who DOES deal with these isesus on a daily basis, who was spot on in predictions YEARS ago is 180 degrees wrong.L: Can you point me to what I should respond? Also, I think I made it clear that nothing is binary. Just because I espouse a viewpoint does not make everyone else 100% wrong for differing. Please note the following posts.This one chicagofinance Says:September 30th, 2008 at 10:50 amLet’s all agree on something…..regardless of the soap opera around us, the key is real estate prices. If you don’t believe that real estate will stabilize until 2009-2010 or later, then that opinion should color everything else. Don’t lose focus on the important driver here. One of the arguments about the $700B “allocation” of capital for investment (please let me use this phrase) is that it will stabilize the system and also real estate prices. Such an argument is patent folly. Regardless, what I focus on is the coagulation of the life blood of our economy (i.e. daily cash flow). I have run a money market desk for a large multi-national corporation. I ran it across Y2K. Don’t underestimate how messed up things are. The fact that this is cutting across a quarter end (9/30/08) is a disaster. The other critical component is the “turn” (i.e. 12/31/08). We need Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket here….also this one .chicagofinance Says:September 29th, 2008 at 4:29 pmrhymingrealtor Says:September 29th, 2008 at 4:21 pmThe employess might not like it and think the boss is nuts but the boss is the boss! The american people have been calling, emailing, faxing, mailing and overwhelmingly sayin NO!.Karen: Guess what? Mostly of the people against this bailout are ignorant or have bet big short the markets. Chaos reigns? Fine, I guess. If I have offended any of you, my apologies. I have mostly remained silent, because I have been busy, but really, the bile spilled here is over the top, and I honestly would have expected a more controlled discourse. I am underwhelmed.Everyone should be more critical of their information sources. Even the ones that have predicted doom are not necessarily messianic. Do not give iconic status to anyone! We must look to the people who speak solutions, not just those who are cashing in as the hurricane comes tearing through…..

      October 13, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse |
  5. Chris M

    Well that sucks for the millions of office workers relegated to desks for 8 hours a day. Maybe we should get hazard pay!

    July 9, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CGS

      Apply for disability like everyone else.

      July 10, 2012 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
    • nokiddin

      My office in Jacksonville has no chairs. Hell of a concept. A standing office. I am sure if the ACLU or the Southern Peverty (intentional) Law Center found out I would get sued out of existence for not having wheelchair friendly work environment, even though I am self employed. LOL

      July 10, 2012 at 05:08 | Report abuse |
  6. JeffinIL

    Meh. Tell it to Buddha.

    July 9, 2012 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jo

      And to God who is sitting on HIS/HER throne....

      July 9, 2012 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
  7. Steven Bulcroft

    "Sitting is bad for you" – What a bunch of BS! It's not sitting per se that appears to be the problem but sitting and watching TV (and I'd add playing video games, being on the internet to that) is what appears to be what they found. Of course, if all you do is sit (or lie for that matter) your system will slow down and start shutting down, but if you take time to sit and meditate each day it is actually good for you. So, "sitting is bad for you" is a stupid statement.

    July 9, 2012 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • phoodphite

      Well not exactly. It turns out that on a scale from one to ten, sitting and watching Fox news is a 10 (worst for you, both physically and mentally). (Watching reality shows comes in a close second.)

      July 10, 2012 at 01:48 | Report abuse |
  8. allenwoll

    Longevity is a grossly OVER-rated criterion of an outstanding life ! ! !

    Mozart died at age 35, for example.

    July 9, 2012 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ComeOnMan9

      Okay I want to hang on til I am 99 and a half to have more time to Facebook, no thanks, I will keep mainlining the fried chicken.

      July 9, 2012 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • T. Rex

      ... and from syphilis. I see your point.

      July 10, 2012 at 04:55 | Report abuse |
  9. Adam

    Good luck getting your boss to let you leave your desk to walk. Some bosses get upset when you take more than 3 minutes for a bathroom break.

    July 9, 2012 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Highly Motivated

      Yes it is the desk jobs that are really killing us early.

      July 9, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse |
  10. jo

    I'm writing this STANDING UP!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. David

    Well, this is the answer to our intractable budget problems. You want to slash government spending but keep taxes as low or lower than at present? Where does so much of the money go? Keeping older folks going. So let's DISCOURAGE exercise and encourage sitting around like a lump. Spend the money on a La-Z-Boy in every home, a remote for the TV, and monthly coupons for beer, wine, ice cream and cookies. What a lovely way to slip into the sunset! And budget problem solved!!

    July 9, 2012 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 123elle

    My mother did a lot of standing in her job as a store clefrk. She had horrendous varicose veins to show for it, and after she retired at 65 or so, she basically sat or lay on her couch for the rest of her life. She's still alive, at 93, just went into a nursing home. It's the most miserable old age; she's demented, mean-tempered (she always was), demanding (she always was). I think genetics has a lot to do not only with longevity but with personality and quality of life. But I would rather have had a shorter-lived, kinder parent than what I got. What good a few more years of life can do her, I cannot figure out.

    July 9, 2012 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mei

      Usually an angry personality has roots from the past. Your mother probably hated her job (in most clerk jobs you are treated poorly by both management and customers) and so it would not be a surprise if the years working really took away her positive spirit. I once heard a very holy priest give a talk on this subject and he said that people live as long as they do for a REASON, either to amend something in their own past or to help others in some way. My grandparents lived into their late 90's and it was painful watching them go through a lot of difficulties, but I felt they were alive for a benefit to themselves or others. Pray for your mom that she may find happiness and peace before she dies and be a good example of this. In the end, you will only regret what you DIDN'T do for her despite her sour nature. I have a mom with severe dementia now as well (and she is only in her late 60's) and it is really like they are already gone, but I do believe there is a reason she is still here. Just hand it over to God and ask Him to show you.

      July 9, 2012 at 21:39 | Report abuse |
  13. iBod

    Life expectancy is such BS. Nowhere in the data is there a factor of major medical advances. I am almost certain the average lifespan for those born after 1960 will boom - I will just guess and say about ninety; although I would not rule out one hundred. In another thirty years you or your parents will be reaching the age of their expected life expectancy. Can you really say you know for sure how medicine will be in the year 2030 or 2040? A LOT can happen in the field of medicine in twenty to thirty years. I am twenty. Provided I have good health, and I am in equisitely great condition today even a score later, I am confident millions of babies born in the 1990's will be able to see the 22nd Century. I cannot say what medicine will do to the masses in the future, but there will be a day when the average lifespan is one hundred, and the generation to see it is already born. That's why I look at stuff like this: where a little less sitting will add a couple years to your life and a little more sitting will subtract a couple years from your life... And then there is the nerve given to bring in the life expectancy, as if that is all relevant...I have a huge respect for the field of medicine, but I get a laugh when there is a lecture full of negatives toward me and my generation all the while there being a lack of factoring into whether this data will at all matter in a future full of unknown advances in the field.

    July 9, 2012 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mei

    I guess they are talking about the upper class (sitting all day) because lower class work their feet off (using a nice word here instead)! Most low or even middle class workers are constantly on the move all day and can not sit down. They don't work at desks. Then when they get home, they have chores to do, grocery shopping to finish, some go to college (where they might sit but they are intellectually active).

    July 9, 2012 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. How Moronic.

    The "health risks of sitting." What a joke. There are no health risks of sitting. I'm sure if we spent 5 waking hours laying down or leaning against a wall we'd die just as quickly. Who is the moron that needs a study to know that doing nothing all day is not healthy?

    July 9, 2012 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Deadlift

    1) this is old news
    2) it's true
    3) I don't care how people live their lives, just don't complain to me about being out of shape or ugly. don't wonder why people make fun of you for being fat either.

    4) check this out: sitting is killing you on google

    July 9, 2012 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deadlift

      here's the article here: http://www.howtogeek.com/93822/sitting-is-killing-you-infographic/

      July 9, 2012 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  17. JWG

    Uh? Upon first read of the headline, I though it said "S*1t less, live longer", and then I read the article. Of course I waited all day before I read it. I've been holding the biggest loaf for hours just cause I thought it would make me live longer!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Simchatorah

      If'n I were you, I'd continue holding onto it for another 8 hours. You will then be highly rewarded.

      July 10, 2012 at 08:07 | Report abuse |
  18. Jim

    If we can't stop people from standing more, we are going to have to raise payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare to keep from going bankrupt.

    July 10, 2012 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Aardie

    Those desk jobs are death traps!

    July 10, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. nokiddin

    I lost a lot of money in '86, almost went to prison. My crime? I ran an add in the LA Times for weight loss. They sent me $5, and I sent them a sheet of paper that said Eat Less, Do More in english and spanish. I was charged with practicing medicine without a license.

    July 10, 2012 at 00:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Elliptical Orbit

    "Less Sitting May Lead To Longer Life" – Is there an "h" missing from the second word? Must be a typo.

    July 10, 2012 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. i_know_everything

    no kidding

    July 10, 2012 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Barryg

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), I sit a desk 8 hours a day working.
    What has helped me:
    -I get up every 1/2 hr and walk around for 3-5 minutes, otherwise I feel like a pretzel being untangled.
    -Afternoon runs. I started running 2-3 miles a few years ago....now I'm up to 6-7 every afternoon..usually at lunchtime(I bring my lunch at eat at my desk afterward). Best thing I ever did was that I stuck with running....even when it was hard in the beginning and I was not in good shape. It's a freakin' gift once you get past the 1st year or so......runners know what I'm talking about.

    July 10, 2012 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Name the nameless

    But my feet hurt:(

    July 10, 2012 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. paz

    If you don't exercise at least 30 min 7 days a week, there lies your problem. The human body was made to exercise hours every day, and not exercising at all is a death trap. Get it together people! I'm sick of paying for your healthcare.

    July 10, 2012 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mike

    So either I can sit down, relax and chill out for as long as I like or die when I am 78 instead of 76.

    Somebody, would you please mind fetching me the remote?

    July 10, 2012 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ArtInChicago

    Cool! Let me stand up so I can have two more years of being broke, traffic jams, lines for basic services, reality tv, and the annoying beep from my smoke detector.

    July 10, 2012 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Guest

    Sure
    Ill stand more and you can spend all that extra time kissing my &ss

    July 10, 2012 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Harry

    I'm screwed then. My job has me sitting at a desk 8 hours a day minimum. Sometimes I'm oncall and i'm sitting for 60~ hours a week.

    July 10, 2012 at 01:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Beezy

    how much money did we just throw away proving that getting excersize will help live longer than sitting on ur fat ass?

    July 10, 2012 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JediMcStinky

    It would be amazing if i could stand a long time without my feet or back hurting.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. spike

    gee, who would have thought this...another million dollars wasted studying something that a 5th grader could have told you.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. spike

    in other words, stop reading this drivel, get off your butt and go outside.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Andrew

    3 hours of sitting is fricken hard to stop doing especially if you have worked a job that has you standing for 8, 10, or even 12 hour shifts.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Vidallius

    Why is the woman on a treadmill? Isn't the point made sufficiently clear if she was simply standing? It's easy enough to make or improvise a "standing desk", but to bring in a treadmill seems a bit much.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • guest

      that is a very funny comment!

      July 10, 2012 at 02:25 | Report abuse |
  36. guest

    It needs to start young, how are they going to get this implemented in classrooms that make the students sit 8 or 10 hours a day? They drill that in kids in preschool. I do believe some Asian schools do a much better job incorporating small exercises/stretches throughout the day more than the U.S. does, they believe it is very important and should be done in school to help with attention which is right.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. R Burns

    Let's do some math: I spend about 6 hours a day watching TV while working on needlework. If that were reduced to 2 hours a day I would lose 4 hours per day on this productive activity. Over the next 20 years that amounts to a loss of 3.33 years of work, vs 1.8 years of actual life. I'm not worried about the additional time walking the earth since all lives end at some time, but it would be a shame not to be able to work up the next baby gift for my niece or the next pair of comfort socks for my elderly father. I think that's a very fair trade! As long as everything else is in line with my diet, my general activity level, my home cleaning and maintenance, family communications and faith – why should I give up artful, satisfying and really helpful activities that couldn't be realized if I were on my feet pacing around? That would be penny wise and pound foolish. Some things don't need to change to satisfy the latest statistic or trend.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. R Burns

    Another take: who is going to pay for the wear and tear on joints from standing so much? It's proven that leg veins, knees and hips will deteriorate with additional stress. There is always something that these studies don't address! If the human body were made to exercise for hours a day, as one comment here suggests, then it is also made to expire after a much short lifespan than we now enjoy. That's part of human history.

    July 10, 2012 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 10, 2012 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. mlblogscbgoldsmith

    So if I sit, eventually I will die and not have to read the trolls or watch CNN become more of a joke? At ease!

    July 10, 2012 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Soundbite

    I conducted a study that proved conclusively that, at birth, your vertebrate can tolerate the pull of gravity for a given period of time that is determined by your genetic make-up and that if you exceed your allotted number of vertical hours, your vertebrae will deteriorate and ultimately collapse. That is why I spend the vast majority of my waking hours on my back with my head propped up on pillows and my laptop on my stomach. In fact, I am typing this comment in my customary vertebrae-sparing position.

    July 10, 2012 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. J.Rose

    I understand the sitting problem, but is sitting in front of the TV watching an educational program any worse for you than sitting and reading for hours? Is it the TV that is bad for us? How does standing for hours effect your bones and joints over time?

    July 10, 2012 at 03:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Bryan

    Hate causes higher blood pressure and an increased heart rate and can lead to sleep trouble. It also drives away your fellow man. Quit hating on fat people Hitler.

    July 10, 2012 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. tj

    I am 85 and ambulatory. Stopped skydiving at 83 after 2K jumps. Still get it done using Viagra. Enjoy eating sweets. Siblings all in 80's. Accident ? I don't think so. Nature (God) dictates. Live it up, you only live once. I don't know if this is the best of times or the worst of times but I do know this is the only time you will have. Cheers.

    July 10, 2012 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. bgg1175

    Uhhh, fast food and restaurant workers stand and run around all the time and still get fat and die early from eating the bad food served where they work. So this is a stupid story. Healthy living is healthy living. Standing on your feet isnt going to make you healthier or live longer.

    July 10, 2012 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. crazycatman

    OK, let's think about this. I am going to sit in an art class tomorrow - three hours, 1:00 to 4:00. Then I'm going to dinner and a movie. So I have to eat and watch the movie standing up, drive from place to place standing up, (nice trick if you can do it) and stand up all the time the rest of the day. And this will enable me to live two years longer! Why on Earth would anyone want to spend two extra years standing up 13 hours a day? If I've ever read a dumber article on CNN, I don't know what it would be.

    July 10, 2012 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. SixDegrees

    The sheer, ridiculous impracticality of this suggestion is staggering.

    July 10, 2012 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Flamespeak

    Why would anyone want to live like Ned Flanders for an 700 days of existence?

    July 10, 2012 at 04:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. bezerkur

    Just another quack study. About as useful as the 'duck n cover' drills they had in the 60s in the event of a thermo-nuclear war. Just be happy and have some humor in your life.

    July 10, 2012 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. THATGUY

    less than 3 hours a day
    1.38 years

    not worth it

    July 10, 2012 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.