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Sitting at work leads to higher risk of early death, study finds

If you sit all day at work, you face a higher risk of premature death. But if you add exercise, you can decrease that risk.
Sitting at work leads to higher risk of early death, study finds
Posted at 9:13 AM, Jan 25, 2024

A new study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that those who mostly sit at work had higher mortality risks than those who do not. 

The study found that those who alternate between sitting and non-sitting at work experienced a 16% reduction in mortality compared with workers who mostly sit. Researchers in Taiwan and the University of California, San Francisco, conducted the study. 

They said in order to counteract the effects of sitting for long durations at work, a person would need to exercise 15-30 minutes longer per day than others. 

"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," the study says. 

The study enrolled over 481,000 participants for almost 13 years. The average age for participants at the start of the study was 39.3. During that time, over 26,000 people enrolled in the study died. 

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After adjusting for risk factors, such as diet and smoking, those who mostly sat at work had a 16% higher death risk. The study also found that those who mostly sat had a 34% higher risk of cardiovascular death. 

Those who alternated between sitting and non-sitting had no significant difference in mortality rates compared to those who mostly move around at work. 

The study noted that when those who sit at work added 15-30 minutes of extra physical activity on top of normal exercise, they experienced a mortality rate similar to those who move around at work. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity workouts. That means instead of working out 30 minutes a day, five days a week, those who sit at work would need to work out 60 minutes a day in order to have the same mortality rate. 

The study noted there are multiple reasons why inactivity at work can lead to premature death. 

"These include a lack of exercise of the large muscles in the lower limbs and trunk with increased blood flow to lower extremities, as well as the presence of a biomarker for low-grade inflammation," the study said. "Such factors can lead to reduced insulin action, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and reduced kidney function."

The study concluded by saying companies can play a role by having activity-permissive workstations. Companies could also designate areas for company-sponsored group activities, the study noted. 

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