People who mainly sit at work increase their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by more than a third, a new study has revealed.
However, this could be offset by 15-30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.
Researchers examined 481,688 people over a 20-year period and gathered data on their health in relation to occupational sitting, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors.
They discovered that people who lead a sedentary work life, those defined as spending most of their time sitting down, had a 16 percent higher risk of death from all causes than those who mostly did not sit.
Individuals who predominantly engaged in sitting at work also exhibited a 34 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Both of these figures stayed the same even after adjusting for sex, age, smoking, drinking, and body mass index (BMI).
People who led a combination lifestyle – who alternated between sitting and ‘non-sitting’ at work – did not experience an increased risk of death.
Meanwhile, those who had sedentary work lives but also engaged in exercise during their free time displayed a reduced risk of mortality, from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.
This, the study argued, suggests that the risks associated with prolonged occupational sitting can be mitigated by incorporating regular breaks and engaging in additional physical activity.
Other solutions, such as standing desks, employers offering gym memberships, and workplaces that have designated areas for physical activity could also help mitigate the dangers of sedentary work lives.
Lead author Dr. Wayne Gao from Taipei Medical University, Taiwan said: “As part of modern lifestyles, prolonged occupational sitting is considered normal and has not received due attention, even though its deleterious effect on health outcomes has been demonstrated.
“Our findings suggest that reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace and/or increasing the volume or intensity of daily physical activity may be beneficial in mitigating the elevated risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease associated with prolonged occupational sitting.
“Individuals who predominantly sit at work would need to engage in an additional 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity per day to mitigate this increased risk and reach the same level of risk as individuals who predominantly do not sit at work.”
Study co-author Dr. Min-Kuang Tsai added: “The fact that there is no increased risk for those who alternate between sitting and non-sitting at work suggests that incorporating regular breaks in work settings can be beneficial.
“Our findings offer reassurance that the increased risks for those who are mainly sedentary can be offset by an extra 15 to 30 minutes per day of exercise per day, or by participating in more physically intense activities.
“Employers can play a role in facilitating this by providing designated areas for leisure time physical activity or offering company-sponsored group activities.”
The study also offered several explanations that could lie behind the dangers of prolonged sitting.
These included a lack of exercise of the large muscles in the lower limbs, possibly causing an increased blood flow to the extremities.
This can lead to reduced insulin action, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and reduced kidney function, all of which carry higher risks of various health issues – including cardiovascular disease.
“Overall, our findings from this large prospective cohort help to strengthen the increasingly accumulating evidence linking a sedentary lifestyle and health risks,” Dr. Gao concluded.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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