Living a Sedentary Lifestyle Is Linked to an Increased Cancer Risk, Says New Study


“Sitting is the new smoking” has been a common catchphrase in the wellness world for the last few years.

While a sedentary lifestyle is obviously not a super healthy way to live — with past studies linking it to obesity and heart disease — a new study has shown just how devastating it can be for you long-term.

Research conducted on the connection between inactivity and cancer mortality has found that extremely sedentary people are roughly 80% more likely to die of cancer compared to those who are active, as reported by The New York Times.

The study, which was recently published in the JAMA Oncology journal, re-examined a plethora of health data that had already been collected for a study on stroke risk factors in the United States.

That particular study started in 2002 and included more than 30,000 middle-aged and older men and women from a variety of backgrounds. The participants gave details about their lifestyle and general health at the time while also wearing activity trackers to see how often they were active and still.

Researchers from the current study gathered the data from roughly 8,000 of those participants who had worn the activity monitors. According to the New York Times, these participants were around 45 years old when they joined the original study and had a mixture of good to not-so-good health issues.

Looking at this data, the researchers found that many of these participants spent roughly 13 hours of the 16 they were awake sitting down or inactive. Granted, some had engaged in light-intensity activities like housecleaning but the majority were fairly sedentary.

These 8,000 participants were then divided into thirds according to how much time they spent sitting. The researchers then checked the death records for all participants, to see who had passed away from cancer. Here they found that sitting for long periods of time increased the likelihood of dying from cancer.

“The men and women in the group that had spent the most hours sitting were 82 percent more likely to have died from cancer during the study’s follow-up period than those in the group that had sat the least,” Gretchen Reynolds wrote for The New York Times.

“This association held true when the researchers controlled for people’s ages, weight, gender, health, smoking status, education, geographic location and other factors.”

While this finding is alarming, there is hope. The researchers modelled how this might change if a person started to be more active. The data showed that for every 30 minutes someone was active instead of sitting caused the risk of cancer death to fall by 31%.

Even those who engaged in light housework or went for a stroll over sitting down were found to reduce the risk by 8%.

As with many studies, this research has its limitations, especially because it simply looked at death from cancer and not the risk of developing it. It also didn’t specify the types of cancer that were the greatest risk. But, on the whole, there is much we can learn from this research.

“The tangible takeaway is that we can tell people they do not have to go out and run a marathon” Dr. Susan Gilchrist, a cardiologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, told The New York Times.

“It looks like just getting up and walking around the living room for a few minutes every hour or so could make a meaningful difference.”

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