Sitting at your desk for six hours a day dramatically increases the risk of cancer and diabetes
- People who spend more than six hours sitting each day are at higher risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes
- Office workers and drivers in particular danger of suffering from poor health
Stand up if you want to stay healthy, warn researchers.
A study says office workers could be risking their health simply by sitting at their desk for hours at a time.
It found people who spend more than four hours a day sitting down are at greater risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to have diabetes.
The research involved 63,048 middle-aged men but US scientists say the findings are likely to also apply to women.
He said ‘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.’ The latest study follows research last year on 222,000 people which found sitting down too long increases your risk of dying within three years, even among the physically active.
There is growing evidence which suggests too much sitting - as opposed to insufficient activity - may be a new risk factor for premature death and illness.
The latest study, published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, looked at the health of men aged 45 to 65 from New South Wales, Australia, who sat less than four hours a day, four to six hours, six to eight hours and more than eight hours.
The chance of suffering a chronic disease increased as participants indicated they sat more. Those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to report having diabetes.
Researchers discovered consistent findings in those who had a similar physical activity level, age, income, education, weight and height.
Participants who sat more reported more chronic diseases, even if they had a similar body mass index (BMI) to those who sat less.
Prof Rosenkranz said the findings sent a warning to office workers sitting at desks for long periods as well as other jobs such as taxi and lorry drivers.
He said ‘We know 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.
‘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.’
There has been growing interest in the downsides of prolonged sitting, which could be both a marker for a sedentary lifestyle and an independent risk factor.
Previous research found people who watch six hours of TV a day cut short their lifespan by five years compared with someone who watches no TV.
People who sit for longer have bigger waist sizes, and higher levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides.
The average adult spends 90 per cent of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organisation physical activity recommendations.
In the UK, adults are urged to do 150 minutes of activity a week to promote health.
Prof Rosenkranz said ‘It’s not just that people aren’t getting enough physical activity, but it’s that they’re also sitting too much. And on top of that, the more you sit, the less time you have for physical activity.’
The study focused on men because they have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, but the findings ‘probably’ apply to women too, he said.
Little is known about children and sitting with regard to chronic disease.
The research is part of the 45 and Up Study, the largest long-term study of aging in Australia, involving more than 267,000 people.
Researchers said that although most of the current evidence is suggestive of a causal connection, they cannot be certain in this study whether volumes of sitting time led to the development of chronic diseases or whether the chronic diseases influenced sitting time.
Prof Rosenkranz said ‘It’s a classic case of, which came first - the chicken or the egg?
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