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Sedentary Life - Same Risk as Smoking

Updated on May 19, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Sedentary Lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle is now considered to have equal risk to smoking as it negatively impacts health. “The American Heart Association’s current recommendations are “Sit Less, Move More,’

The British Journal of General Practice stated if an alien came to earth this is what they would see, “After 6 million years of hunter-gatherer existence, humans can be observed sheltering in warm rooms, counteracting the tiresome effects of earth’s gravity by slouching on comfortable seats in front of glowing screens, being whisked effortlessly between floors aboard mechanical staircases, even soaring across continents while seated in warm moving boxes.”

Study: Sedentary Lifestyle Worse For Your Health Than Smoking, Diabetes Or Heart Disease

Medical Study by Keith M Diaz, MD

Keith M. Diaz, MD and his team completed a large study over 4 years using 7,985 black and white Americans that were 45 years of age and they were recruited from REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study. They used an accelerometer, and they found sedentary participants had more heart disease when the 4 year study concluded. This is not surprising but now it is proven. The participants wore the accelerometer on their right hip, which they wore when they were not in bed for 7 days straight.

Previous studies had only used subjective data, so human error and bias is likely. This study looked at the relationship between the length of sedentary periods of time and the risk of mortality.

The team followed the participants every 6 months over an average of 4 years. During those 4 years, 340 participants died. Those participants had been sedentary for long periods of time. The all-cause mortality had nothing to do with BMI, age, race, sex, cardiovascular risk nor did they do moderate to more vigorous excerise. The participants that had the largest amount of sedentary time were most likely smoking, were older, were black, and many people had diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, a higher BMI, atrial fibrillation, a history of heart disease or stroke.

No matter the cause, periods of sitting for 60-90 or more minutes was associated with an increased risk of death. “The interval of 1 to 29 minutes was linked to the least risk of all-cause mortality, which is in line with current physical activity guidelines.”

This study noted that the current guidelines do not specify a way for Americans to reduce the time they spend sitting. Certainly, many jobs are at a desk and computer so people are sitting for long periods of time. The study revealed that more than 77% of waking hours are spent sitting, which is equivalent to 12.3 in a 16 hours of being awake. A possible recommendation by Dias is for “30 minutes of sitting, stand up and move or walk for 5 minutes at a brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.”

Source

University of California Study

In this study 5,000 racially diverse women between 63-97 were studied over a 5 year period of time. The women also wore an accelerometer for a week. The researchers found similar results for these women over this 5 year period. There were 545 cardiovascular events during this study.

A sedentary lifestyle causes heart disease, cancers and the thinning in particular brain regions. A sedentary lifestyle is also connected to the length of time spent sitting on each occasion. Every hour of sedentary time was associated with a 12% risk of multivariable adjusted risk for CVD. The researchers found that exercise did not always eliminate the risk of a prolonged sitting time.

The researcher also stated, “a one-hour reduction in sedentary time could reduce CVD risk by 12% for women who are typically sedentary for 8 hours/day as well as for women who are typically sedentary for 12 hours/day.” Working out just on the weekends does not necessarily undo the hours of sitting all week. One of the mechanisms that may explain this finding is the possibility that sitting reduces muscle movement and blood flow and this reduces any muscle movement, thus blood flow. This problem will also contribute to a problem in metabolizing glucose. If blood vessel function is impaired then it can harm heart cells and other cells.

“The body achieves what the mind believes.”

--Anonymous

Cancers Possibly Caused by a Sedentary Lifestyle

Christing Friedenreich, an epidemiologist at Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Canada, stated that 173,000 cancer cases in the U.S., are due to the sedentary lifestyle.

The cancers included:

  • Breast cancer - 49,000
  • Colon cancer - 43,000
  • Lung cancer - 37,200
  • Prostate cancer - 30,600
  • Endometrial cancer - 12,000
  • Ovarian cancer - 1,800

There is no definitive proof that these cancers are caused by inactivity but the numbers and new studies are alarming. One marker that is present is a higher level of C-reactive protein blood level in people who spend much of their time sitting.

We Got a Treadmill Desk - Here's What Happened

Final Thoughts

If you are sitting long hours at work, rise regularly from 5-6 times each hour or at least move around. Even stretching in your chair or fidgeting is some movement. Frequent small movement may break the sedentary pattern.

If you can take a brisk walk in the morning or evening that will definitely help break the sedentary pattern but you still need to move as often as possible when sitting behind a desk.

If possible, get a gym membership and try to exercise at least every other day. The World Health Organization states that people 18-64 years of age should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rajan,

    Moving around is necessary for good health. Thank you for your comments.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    5 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Thanks for the reminder to get up and move at frequent intervals. It is necessary for our good health.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I am glad you are going to the gym as that is very good exercise I sit too much also but have started breaking my sitting time up now that I learned this information. I appreciate your comments, Peggy.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    8 months ago from Houston, Texas

    I know that I sit too much because of writing articles on the computer. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to stretch and take breaks. Just got back from the gym today after spending about an hour there. Plan to do it several times a week. I know that will be helpful.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, I never thought even just moving around and stretching could be helpful, but we do need more than that. I think the treadmill desks are great as you. can stand or sit. Thanks for you comments. Much love.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    9 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Pamela,

    This article is a needed reminder for me. I especially like the formula of getting up and moving 5-6 times in a half-hour. My dogs are a wonderful reminder as well on those days I'm working from home.

    I'm intrigued by the treadmill desk - will be looking more into that.

    Thanks for this valuable information.

    Love,

    Maria

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I think both things apply as some could be in good shape if they exercised, then there are people like me with a bad back so the exercise is not everything it should be. I am not big on causing myself more pain, but I do a few simple exercises.

    I appreciate your comments Robert and hope you are nice and healthy.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Nicky, I think you have to walk very slow with a treadmill desk to get work done, but I think it is better than always sitting. It seems more people are out of shape these days. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorelei, I think it is harder for most people to be active in the winter months unless they belong to a gym that they faithfully atend. So, I hope you stay healthy also. Thanks for commenting. Enjoy the Christmas season.

  • Ladymermaid profile image

    Lorelei Cohen 

    9 months ago from Canada

    I know that I am indeed far more stationary than it is healthy to be and especially during the winter months when I am not able to get out walking as often as I do in the summer months. It always nice to receive a reminder as it helps me get up and moving again. Take care and stay well.

  • mcgreg28 profile image

    Nicky Fuller 

    9 months ago from Florida, USA

    That treadmill desk idea seems nice but i am not sure how practical it would be. Nonetheless, nice idea. As a fellow nurse, i do a lot of brisk walking. Still, i am out of shape.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    9 months ago

    It is as interesting as it is alarming. Could this be a chicken or egg argument. Does being sedentary cause health problems or are people sedentary because they don't feel well?

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa, It is alarming considering our common lifestyles. I am glad your husband can stand some of the time. Thank you so much for your generous comments. Have a good week.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image

    Alyssa 

    9 months ago from Ohio

    This is alarming and sad, but definitely not surprising. As you said, most jobs nowadays require sitting at a desk and I would add that with all the modern conveniences we have today, plus all the commitments of busy lifestyles.. it can be a challenge to find time to exercise. My husband's job is very demanding and requires him to be at a computer the entire time. He said they have the option to raise their desks so that they can stand and he likes to do that just to get up and get the blood moving in his legs. Thank you for sharing these studies! Have a wonderful week!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, A few years back my mother use to walk in the mall and I have such a bad back that walking is a problem for me also. I guess we just need to make sure we take more breaks when writing. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh, I absolutely agree with your comments. I hope you will continue with your exercise. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby, I am glad you are inspired to move around more now. Your comments are much appreciate.

    Happy holidays Ruby!

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    9 months ago from Washington State, USA

    This is a problem. I know that I sit far too much because of the writing. I used to rely on gardening but can no longer do that because of the pain in my wrist and thumbs. Walking outdoors is frightening; I'm always afraid of tripping. Guess I'll need to make it a point to walk indoors (the mall or Home Depot) each day.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Audrey, It is hard to get out when the weather is bad to get out and walk. I think if you also remember to take frequent breaks when you are sitting that will help.

    I appreciate your comments, Audrey. Happy holidays to you also.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    9 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    I've noticed that my back isn't happy when I sit too long. Thanks for reminding me to take more breaks. I'm a walker, but with all the snow and bad weather here in the mountains, I haven't had a chance to get out and exercise. Today is sunny and a bit warmer so I'm about to take a much needed walk.

    Interesting to read that being sedentary rates right along with smoking. Yikes!

    Happy holidays, Pamela.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    9 months ago from Southern Illinois

    This is a wakeup call for all we Hubbers who sit too long writing. I do workout on my Tony Little's AB lounge, but not as much as I used to. I am going to go do it right now!

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh emge 

    9 months ago from Singapore

    Great Pamela. I hope people will revise their lifestyle after reading your article. Some form of exercise is a must if your job is just a desk one. Thanks!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I think walking 5 miles daily is excellent. If you just remember to get up and stretch when you are writing that should help also. I appreciate your comments, my friend.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    9 months ago from Olympia, WA

    I haven't had to worry about this until the last year. I've cut back on my activities. I still walk five miles each day, but I suspect I'm going to have to do more.Thanks for the reminder, Pamela.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, Those desks look wonderful as you can stop and sit but you are moving slowly on the treadmill most of the time. I think the walk is healthy, Liz. I appreciate your comments.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    9 months ago from UK

    As I sit at my laptop, this certainly gives food for thought. I love the treadmill desk idea. I'm hoping that my daily 30 minute workout helps in some way to counteract the time I spend sitting at a desk.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    9 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    I have an active lifestyle a bit of everything. I would write and sit for a few hours, go for long walks, enjoy nature and do chores around my home and enjoy my time. I like your article informing us of sedentary lifestyles.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Clive, I think you summed up a healthly life. Thanks for your comments.

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    9 months ago from Jamaica

    Good insight on laziness causing bad health....we need to move move move. Walk more, drive less. Cook our own meals. Drink more water instead of soda and other bad juices. Then we need to pray.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, Back exercises will help prevent back problems in the future. If I appreciate your comments. just move around every hour or so it would be better than nothing.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    9 months ago from Pacific Northwest

    Oh my. My life has become very sedentary. Not because I'm lazy, just always writing and on the computer. I have weekly activities I do but I need to get back into exercise.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric, I think you are doing absolutely eveything right. You are so active with your young son that I can't think you don't get enough activity. Thanks for commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Penny, Yes, C-reactive protein is released in response to inflammation and it can indicate a wide variety of diseases, including cancer. Thank you for your comments

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish. Those Apple watches are great to track your steps. My daughter-in-law has one and loves it.

    If you keep your steps up you don't have to go to a gym because at least you are moving. I appreciate your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    9 months ago from USA

    I got an Apple Watch last Christmas and the activity feature is very useful because it lets me know when I’ve been sitting too long and need to get up. I hate exercise but try to continually improve my move and exercise rings in the app. It helps a lot.

  • Penny Sebring profile image

    Penny Leigh Sebring 

    9 months ago from Fort Collins

    Interesting information! Isn't C reactive protein being released into the blood a reaction to inflammation?

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    9 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Walking a mile or two each day, not smoking, limited alcohol intake, full night rest, fruits and vegetables more than carbs and meat. Prayer and meditation and at least gentle stretching.

    What is it that people don't get?

    All that stuff is fun and can be done with loved ones (ok my son has a sweet tooth, what are going to do?)

    We are a work in progress. We enjoy playing fight during our movies and his screen time. I kicked his butt last night.

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