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Written by February 15, 2010

Gina Cortese-Shipley, MS

Associate Director of Education
The Cooper Institute

death rate
low intensity activity
Physically active with a sedentary lifestyle: Are you at risk?

As most individuals recognize, physical inactivity has been shown to increase the number of deaths from all-causes, as well as from heart disease and cancer. But what about individuals who meet the physical activity recommendations but spend most of the day sitting?  Does all that sitting have a negative impact on health?

A study performed by Dr. Katzmarzyk1 and his associates (2009) examined the effects of prolonged sitting on all-cause and cardiovascular death rates in individuals who exercised and those who did not.  The researchers collected information about daily activities including time spent sitting in over 17,000 individuals.  They followed the subjects for an average of 12 years measuring the number of deaths and the cause.

Not surprising, researchers reported the highest death rates in persons who spent most of the day sitting.  However, all-cause and heart disease death rates were also higher in persons who spent more time sitting even if they met the recommended physical activity requirements.  In fact, death rates were similar in exercisers and nonexercisers who spent most of their day sitting.

Researchers are studying the effects of excessive sitting on the body.  Some of the negative effects include Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  Scientists believe that an active lifestyle may provide different health benefits than occur with exercise alone, providing further protection against heart disease.

This research highlights the need to reduce sedentary behaviors by spending more time standing, walking, and climbing the stairs.  Low intensity activities like cleaning, ironing, walking the dog and yard work are excellent ways to add activity to your day while completing chores on your ”to-do” list.  For additional health benefits, focus on increasing lifestyle activities over and above structured moderate to vigorous intensity exercise bouts.

1.  Katzmarzyk, P.T., Church, T.S., Craig, C.L., & Bouchard, C. (2009). Sitting time and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. MSSE, 41(5),998-1005.

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