Long-term research from Taiwan shows that sitting for long amounts of time can make you more likely to die early, but taking hourly breaks to move around can lower those risks.
A new 13-year study of almost 500,000 Taiwanese people found that if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, you are 16% more likely to die young from any cause than someone who moves around more.
Long-term sitting was even more dangerous for deaths from heart disease, with a 34% higher risk for people who mostly worked at a desk.
The good news from the study reported in JAMA Network Open is that those risks could be greatly lowered by taking regular 5-minute walks every hour. One suggestion was to set an alarm on your phone to remember you to get up and walk 300 to 500 steps every hour.
There are ways to lower the risks of spending too much time sitting at work, such as having standing desks, gym memberships, and walking or biking instead of driving or taking public transportation.
No Commercial Funding For Large Study
The new study did not have any commercial funds or author conflicts that could be found. The study used a very large sample size from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database and followed patients for a long time.
The results support earlier research that found sitting for 50% or more of work hours raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and death.
Most health experts say that you should move, walk, stretch, or do more intense physical exercise at least 2.5 to 5 hours a week to counteract the negative effects of long-term sitting and improve your heart health and overall health.
Simple Lifestyle Adjustments Can Save Lives
“If you have a mostly sedentary job, taking regular breaks to walk around at your desk during work hours and making sure to schedule more dedicated exercise time every day can save your life,” said Dr. Lee Smith, senior study author and visiting academic at Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K.
“Our study found that people who sit at work most of the day have an up to a one-third higher risk of dying earlier.” For example, walking paths, free or cheap gym memberships, standing desks, and signs telling people to take the stairs could all be easy and inexpensive changes that could make a big difference.
Dr. Smith said that methods like these that have already been used have been shown to improve health without hurting employers’ profits or productivity. He said that people should try to sit down less and move around more often outside of work as well to lower their risk of heart disease and other long-term illnesses.
According to Dr. Smith, small changes in your daily life, like driving farther away and taking the stairs, going for walks in the evening, spending less time in front of a screen, and even standing up while eating or talking on the phone can improve your health and fitness over time.