Research published in The Lancet has revealed that sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of a premature death by up to 60 per cent.
More than five million deaths worldwide are attributed to physical inactivity, akin to the number of deaths due to smoking. It also causes more deaths than obesity.
The study classed the amount physical activity and seated time of its participants – most of whom were over 45 – and compared it to the death rates of up to 18 years among adults from Australia, Europe, and the USA.
It found those who sat for at least eight hours a day and were mainly inactive, had a 9.9 per cent mortality rate. This is compared to those who sat for the same amount of time but had an hour’s exercise, with their rate falling to 6.2 per cent.
Heart disease and cancer were the two major diseases linked to the deaths.
The research targeted office workers, stating they must exercise for a least one hour each day to combat the health risks. It recommended changing routines in the office by exercising during lunch times and in the evening, as well as taking a five minute break every hour.
Lead scientists Professor Ulf Ekelund from Cambridge University and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, said, “We found that at least one hour of physical activity per day, for example brisk walking or cycling, eliminates the association between sitting time and death,” in a report by The Telegraph, London.
“You don’t need to do sport, you don’t need to go to the gym, it’s OK doing some brisk walking maybe in the morning, during your lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day but you need to do at least one hour.”
The researchers added that the routine of sitting in front of a computer then sitting in front of the television is fatal, and called on changes to government policies to further encourage healthier habits.
Suggestions included closing streets to cars during weekends to encourage more sports and exercise and opening free public gyms in parks.
Although the study could not exactly identify while sitting for long periods of time was risky, the researchers found movement appeared to help the body’s metabolism while inactivity could influence hormones such as leptin that regulates energy balance.
Executive editor of UK Active, Steven Ward, said the report highlighted the impacts of inactivity. “When we realised this about smoking we tackled it – we need to do the same about our office culture.”