Prolonged sitting behind 4% deaths worldwide: Study

WASHINGTON: Nearly four per cent of all deaths worldwide – or 433,000 per year – are due to the fact that people spend more than three hours a day sitting down, a new study conducted in 54 countries has claimed.

Researchers, including those from San Jorge University in Spain, estimated the proportion of deaths attributable to the ‘chair effect’ using data from 2002 to 2011.

“It is important to minimise sedentary behaviour in order to prevent premature deaths around the world,” said lead author of the study Leandro Rezende from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

He noted that “cutting down on the amount of time we sit could increase life expectancy by 0.20 years in the countries analysed.”

The results show that over 60 per cent of people worldwide spend more than three hours a day sitting down – the average in adults is 4.7 hours per day – and this is the culprit behind 3.8 per cent of deaths (about 433,000 deaths per year).

Among the territories studied, there were more deaths in the regions of the Western Pacific, followed by European countries, the Eastern Mediterranean, America and Southeast Asia.

The highest rates were found in Lebanon (11.6 per cent), the Netherlands (7.6 per cent) and Denmark (6.9 per cent), while the lowest rates were in Mexico (0.6 per cent), Myanmar (1.3 per cent) and Bhutan (1.6 per cent).

Spain falls within the average range with 3.7 per cent of deaths due to this ‘chair effect’.

The researchers calculate that reducing the amount of time we sit by about two hours (50 per cent) would mean a 2.3 per cent decrease in mortality (three times less), although it is not possible to confirm whether this is a causal relationship.

Even a more modest reduction in sitting time, by 10 per cent or half an hour per day, could have an immediate impact on all causes of mortality (0.6 per cent) in the countries evaluated.

According to several studies published in 2012 by the journal Lancet, as many as 31 per cent of the world population does not meet the current recommendations for physical activity, researchers said.

In addition, a lack of exercise is associated with major noncommunicable diseases and with deaths of any cause – inactivity is the culprit behind six to nine per cent of total worldwide deaths.

Today’s lifestyle has an impact on these numbers. In fact, various studies over the last decade have demonstrated how the excessive amount of time we spend sitting down may increase the risk of death, regardless of whether or not we exercise, researchers said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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