Sitting Too Much Can Kill You

You may want to stand up to read this. According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, spending too much time sitting down can increase your risk of death, even if you’re otherwise physically active. The study apparently did not address the risks of lying down, so we assume it’s okay to replace our office chair with a couch in order to improve our health.

Science Daily took a look at the study, which appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

To explore the association between sitting time and mortality, researchers led by Alpa Patel, Ph.D. analyzed survey responses from 123,216 individuals (53,440 men and 69,776 women) who had no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or emphysema/other lung disease enrolled in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention II study in 1992. They examined the amount of time spent sitting and physical activity in relation to mortality between 1993 and 2006.

They found that more leisure time spent sitting was associated with higher risk of mortality, particularly in women. Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. The association remained virtually unchanged after adjusting for physical activity level. Associations were stronger for cardiovascular disease mortality than for cancer mortality.

When combined with a lack of physical activity, the association was even stronger. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94% and 48% more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.

The study’s authors recommend that people who sit too much “stand up and walk around.” Guess that rules out the couch.

More time spent sitting linked to higher risk of death; Risk found to be independent of physical activity level [Science Daily]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Audi_addict says:

    “Increase your risk of death.” So you’re saying I could live forever if I stand all the time?

    • dragonpancakes says:

      +1 I’m shocked. If this study’s research is perfectly accurate and without flaws Audi here has truly discovered immortality! I congratulate you on this achievement and I can’t wait to see you with the Nobel prize ^_^

      • obits3 says:

        I think we could make a movie: “Stand”
        If you ever sit down, you will die.
        Staring Keanu Reeves.

    • asamtoy says:

      Exactly my first reaction. I hope nobody paid for this research to be done.

  2. PanCake BuTT says:

    Oh gawd, the story of my life. As of recent, maybe within the last two years, I’ve seem to have developed a pinch nerve. Partially caused by sitting down all day, being pretty dormant after work, and believe it or not have a wallet which sort of throws off my posture. I recently broke my tibia, so now I sit down more than ever. It’s the worst!

    Thanks for shedding some light on my pain!

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      I’ve heard of the wallet thing; it makes you sit funny, which will screw up your back over time. Women’s purses will do that, too.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Last I checked, everyone has a 100% chance of death.

  4. swarrior216 says:

    i better get up before i die

  5. sugarplum says:

    Well. Crap.

  6. dolemite says:

    I’ve felt like this is a fact at my job. Sit at the computer for basically 9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. My leg will kind of throb and ache (probably thrombosis). I do get up (just because the job demands it) maybe 1-2 times every 1.5-2 hours, but I feel like my circulation is being negatively affected. Not sure what I can really do about it though.

    • Fidget says:

      I know, right? I wonder if sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair changes things at all; I sit a lot, but I can’t sit still really anyway, so I’m thinking of getting one of those chairs with the stability ball built in so it still has a back and everything.

      • rpm773 says:

        Well, I’d like to think you might be at least a little better off with this issue than the rest of us, Fidget

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        I’d rather get one of those giant bouncy balls with a handle. Same real function as a stability ball except with the option of being a mobility ball.

      • sweaterhogans says:

        I tried to bring in one of those balls at my last job and of course the anal boss freaked out because it wasn’t appropriate, and didn’t match everyone’s pristine cubicle. (This guy was so nuts his secretary had to wipe foot pressure marks off of his carpet). I have a friend that managed to get a standing desk at work with a drafting chair if needed. I can never do that thanks to my corporate drone jobs. Guess I’ll have to die early.

    • zandar says:

      not because of this study but because of some suggestions i’ve read about being more active when you’re an office drone, I’ve been looking for every excuse to get up and walk somewhere. For years I didn’t take breaks, at least consistently; now i take my two 15 min breaks mandated by law and walk around. if an internal email is shorter than a paragraph, I just go tell the person instead. I also just stand up and stretch when I think of it.

      But yeah, if you are computer-bound in an office at least 40 hrs a week, there’s not a whole lot to be done short of changing your line of work.

      • Orv says:

        I wonder if that helps? From the article, it’s not clear whether it’s the total time you spend sitting, or the amount of unbroken sitting time that matters. Does taking 15 minute breaks help if your overall time sitting down is still over six hours?

    • Bohemian says:

      I solved this by getting a drafting table height desk and an ergo chair with height to match. Then when sitting starts to hurt I can stand up and work. I try to sit down for things that really require it and stand when I am doing things like sorting paperwork or talking on the phone. It helps that I don’t have some petty pinheaded boss looking over my shoulder constantly either. When I was working 12 hour days in an office and got yelled at for going to take a pee I knew it was time to work somewhere other than a typical office.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        The lack of a petty pinheaded boss is key. Being able to physically move in a job is why I prefer manual labor. It relieves my urge to twitch a lot.

  7. c!tizen says:

    I need more information before I can effectively freak myself out enough to leave my seat. For instance, where were these people sitting? If the ones who sat for less than 3 hours a day were sitting in their living room watching TV and those that sat for more than 6 hours were sitting, lets say, on the middle of the interstate in a lazyboy, then yeah I can see how that may cause heart problems and perhaps some intense cardiovascular episodes… info, I need info.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Yeah, also it could be true that the people who sit longer are also the people who are less physically active. Therefor, the analysis of surveys is just telling us something we already know – that you will not be as healthy if you are not active.

  8. Cyniconvention says:

    I remember reading an article somewhere (PC World perhaps) That talked about this. There was a note to visit a website where you could download a little widget that would remind you to stand up every thirty minutes and provided some little exercises to do.

  9. AngryK9 says:

    Oh Em Jee! Better ban chairs in schools. Must think of the children.

  10. duxup says:

    Damn you airlines!

    • c!tizen says:

      Hey, that’s a good one. I can sue an airline for forcing me to sit and therefore taking valuable time off of my life. Good call!

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Due to the long sit times increasing the chances of heart attack and stroke, airlines often encourage people to move around once in a while (in the literature). Chances of dropping dead on long flights (or right after) is much higher than at home or work. When I can, I go stand just to get the blood moving.

  11. jazzjunkie says:

    What if you have one of those “almost standing” chairs?Like the sort you get in some buses, whereby your butt really only rests against a padded surface, but you’re more or less standing. Better?

  12. dannod says:

    So now tell me how to stop using this wheelchair.

  13. GuidedByLemons says:

    I find it hard to believe they could have adjusted for all other significant factors. The populations of people who sit greater than 6 vs. less than 3 hours per day are totally different in many ways other than amount of physical activity. For example, did they adjust for age? Less than 3 hours of sitting suggests manual labor or service work. I would also expect that those who spend more time sitting are prone to have less intense physical activity on the whole.

    Furthermore, standing is physical activity compared to sitting. Of those who spend less than 3 hours sitting, how much of their standing time is spent walking, and does that count as “physical activity”?

    • bhr says:

      Plus all the other factors that could be considered related to sitting/standing. Standing folks probably walk around more (burn more calories). Sitting for 3 straight hours in front of the tv probably means snacking for most people, ect.

  14. superml says:

    …I’d stand up, but then I’d probably die, my risk of death is probably at 300% by now.

  15. rpm773 says:

    Wait, is this a play on the ‘Stand Up to Cancer’ ad campaign?

    Clever, anti-cancer people, clever.

  16. smo0 says:

    I just read an article on this. It was actually about sitting in cramped spaces on a plane:


    Economy-Class Syndrome

    Sitting in cramped conditions for a long time is more than an uncomfortable nuisance; it can kill you by causing blood clots to form, usually in your legs, which then can travel to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.

    The medical term is traveler’s thrombosis, which causes deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The common term is economy-class syndrome because, while you can get such clots in first class or even in an automobile, the measly 13 millimeters of extra leg space between your knees and the fully reclined seat in front of you in the coach section doesn’t help matters.

    Traveler’s thrombosis is nothing new. The New England Journal of Medicine reported on this back in the 1950s. Sadly, airport seating has gotten tighter and tighter as Americans have gotten larger and larger. Risk factors are many and include obesity, recent surgery, poor circulation, heart disease, middle or old age, and oral contraception or pregnancy (it gets you either way).

    Clots can form during or up to 30 days after travel or any period of immobility, and most clots dissolve on their own. So the true incidence of DVT from air travel is not known. Only about 20 cases of traveler’s thrombosis clearly from air travel leading to a pulmonary embolism are reported per year. One small study from New Zealand published in the journal The Lancet in 2003, however, found that 1 percent of travelers developed clots. With about 2 billion air travelers annually, that extrapolates to 20 million DVT cases, likely leading to at least thousands of deaths.

    Your only protection is wearing loose clothing, drinking lots of water, walking around the cabin, and stretching — or being able to afford the luxury of sleeping horizontally in first class.

    • thisistobehelpful says:

      13 millimeters? Where is this giant plane? When the guy in front of my reclines, unless I sit completely pressed into the seat or spread my legs, my knees touch the seat on all the planes I’ve been on in adulthood.

    • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

      DVT can affect anyone who sits stationary for a period of time, most often greater than 2 hours. It’s not a direct result of the angle of the knee as much as it’s the flow of vascular blood which if slowed (due to the bending of the vein) will cause clotting.

      Most people will develop some form of clot but they are small and have no impact. PE is a tough way to go and depending on the thromus’ size and how it lodges in the lungs death is all but certain.

  17. vpsychward1 says:

    I love how this statistic is blown up out of proportion.They state the increase in risk as 37 percent more. As if you had 100 chances to escape death and this would eat up 37 of them. Or out of 100 people surveyed that 37 more died from sitting too much.

    What this is really saying is that if 10 people out of 250,000 are going to die from heart disease. 6 of those 10 will have sat too much.

    To be objective, I was sitting while I typed this. But I am gonna get up to go to the bathroom before I watch a movie.

  18. HoJu says:

    Dwight Schrute was right. “I prefer to stand. Less blood clots.”

  19. rick420buzz says:

    Good luck with standing and walking around more often if you work in a call center. They tend to get nasty if you spend less than 90-95% of your day on the phone. The one I used to work at tracked break time down to thousandths of a second.

  20. zjgz says:

    Correlation does not show cause…

  21. dragonpancakes says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of research into cancer and I believe I’ve found the true root of this horrible disease and I will now share it with you. Life. Yes, life. I’ve found that 100% of cancer victims are alive when they contract this illness, and surprisingly many of my associates have found that “being alive” can cause other serious diseases, such as hypertension, heart attacks and even death! Until we as a species can find a cure for this life thing we will all have to face the seriousness of dying.

  22. MotorboatJones says:

    “Get up and walk around.” Yeah ok, and when am I supposed to work? What a dumbass suggestion!

  23. Tallanvor says:

    I was reading about a study like this, although I’m not sure if it’s exactly the same one. The theory is that something about the way muscles develop if you are sitting most of the day leaves you at a greater risk of heart problems, even if you work out regularly – an hour of physical activity a day isn’t enough, it seems.

    Luckily I have an adjustable desk at work, so I’ve started forcing myself to work standing up at least an hour a day, and I plan on working up to at least 3 hours a day standing. I already get in 6 workouts a week (jogging at least 12k, and occasionally going over 20k on the weekend), and I’m adding in a couple of cycling sessions a week. If this isn’t enough to get my fitness level up, then I’ll take it as a sign that I’m where I’m meant to be.

  24. EdnaLegume says:

    well.. according to that study I should probably be dead already….

  25. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    I hate surveys that take a behavioral tendency and try to fashion it into causation. It’s not that sitting for extended periods increases your chance of dying, it’s the fact that people who sit for untold hours per day are the same ones that eat junk and don’t take care of themselves.

    So the survey is independent of physical activity level. Does it account for diet, because it doesn’t matter how much you sit or stand and move around, if you eat garbage you’re going to die sooner.

  26. Bob says:

    Yep, modern life of fast food, sitting, lack of exercise, cars, and fat poor diet is killing us. We need to go back to doing farm work like a slave, eating only what you can grow, walk everywhere. That way we can live longer like we did in the 18th Century….Wait a minute, we live LONGER now than then.

    We are dying of cancer and heart disease because we are starting to live long enough, en mass, for that to happen. Pushing our society back to the dark ages will not accomplish anything good.