Too Much Sitting Associated With 14 Diseases, Including Cancer

Research from the American Cancer Society suggests that sitting for 6 hours or more each day (defined as prolonged leisure-time sitting) increases the risk of early death by 19 percent, compared with those who sit for fewer than 3 hours daily.

Sitting is linked to 14 diseases that could result in mortality, including:

  1. cancer
  2. heart disease
  3. stroke
  4. diabetes
  5. kidney disease
  6. suicide
  7. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  8. lung disease
  9. liver disease
  10. peptic ulcer and other digestive disease
  11. Parkinson’s disease
  12. Alzheimer’s disease
  13. nervous disorders
  14. musculoskeletal disorders

The increased mortality risk differed by disease, ranging from 10% for cancer to 60% for musculoskeletal disease.

“The simple message is that we should be moving more,” said lead researcher Alpa V. Patel, PhD.

The researchers analyzed data from the prospective U.S. Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, which included 127,554 men and women who had no major chronic disease at study entry. Over 21 years of follow-up (1993-2014), 48,784 participants died.

The researchers could not determine the correlation between sitting and these diseases, but the majority of leisure-time activities are sedentary, and sedentary time increases with age, when the risk of chronic disease increases.

The authors hypothesized several possible factors associated with sitting and risk of disease. Time spent sitting is associated with lower total physical activity levels; however, when they adjusted for moderate-to-vigorous activity levels in those who sat for prolonged periods, the results did not change. It is also possible that time spent sitting is associated with other unhealthy behaviors. And, prolonged sitting may have an impact on metabolism, which could explain the link to some of these diseases, including cancer.

“Given the pervasive nature of sitting in contemporary lifestyle, this study further supports that encouraging individuals to reduce sedentary time may provide health benefits,” the researchers concluded.

Read the study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.