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Sit less, move more

People who sit down for extended periods of time are at almost double the risk of dying younger, a new study suggests.

A desk-bound lifestyle

Researchers at the Columbia University found that people with desk jobs are at risk of dying younger. The study, of nearly 8,000 adults aged 45 and older, found that those who spent no longer than half an hour at a time sitting down had the lowest risk of death as opposed to those people who regularly spent up to 90 minutes at their desks.

The latest research contradicts an earlier study carried out by Cambridge University academics which suggested that spending just an hour exercising could undo the risks of early death linked to a desk-bound lifestyle. A positive from the new study is that moving every 30 minutes could stave off an early death.

For the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists monitored people with activity trackers. Each participant wore a tracker for at least four days in a week, with their deaths tracked until September 2015 – revealing that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16-hour waking day.

Impact on health

“We tend to think of sedentary behaviour as just the sheer volume of how much we sit around each day,” Keith Diaz, co-author of the study said. “But previous studies have suggested that sedentary patterns – whether an individual accrues sedentary time through several short stretches or fewer long stretches of time – may have an impact on health.”

Diaz and colleagues also checked other facts such as age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure and found that the overall length of inactivity was linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause – even when participants also did moderate to vigorous exercise.

“If you have a job or lifestyle where you have to sit for prolonged periods of time, we suggest taking a movement break every half hour. This one behaviour change could reduce your risk of death, although we don’t yet know precisely how much activity is optimal,” said Diaz.

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