Stand or die soon

Individuals sitting for over 11 hours a day are at 40 per cent increased risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sit for less than four hours in a day.

Two men standing
Standing from time to time helps negate harmful effects of prolonged sitting

Most of us have become professional sitters. We sit at home, we sit in the car, we sit at work. However, a study of 200,000 people published in Archives of Internal Medicine has found that individuals sitting for over 11 hours in a day are at 40 per cent increased risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sit for less than four hours in a day. This was after taking into account their physical activity, weight and health status.

"That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it's also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more," said study lead author Dr Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health.

The results are the first landmark findings to be published from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere.

This doesn't mean all that physical activity you engage in amounts to nothing—inactive people who sit the most had double the risk of dying within three years than the active people who sit least. And among the physically inactive group, those who sit the most have nearly one-third higher chance of dying than those who sit least.

The study's size and focus on total sitting time make it an important contributor to the growing evidence on the downsides of prolonged sitting. The average adult spends 90% of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organization physical activity recommendations.

Experts suggest that instead of spending leisure time sitting in front of the TV or playing games, it's healthier to choose a leisure activity that involves physical activity.

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