Sedentary lifestyle risks: Too much sitting can increase chances of dying from cancer, suggests study
Incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer, say researchers
A new study suggests that sitting for long hours could increase the chances of dying from cancer. And if you are guilty of spending too many hours on a couch or desk, it is still not too late for change: researchers suggest getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity to lower the risk. "Our findings reinforce that it's important to 'sit less and move more' and that incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer," lead author Dr Susan Gilchrist, an associate professor of clinical cancer prevention at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, said.
Gilchrist and her team studied 8002 American adults for five years. They concluded that those with the most sedentary lifestyle had an 82% higher risk of dying from cancer than their counterparts leading an active lifestyle. "This is the first study that definitively shows a strong association between not moving and cancer death," she added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer is the second most leading cause of death in the US. Most cancer mortality is due to lifestyle and environment. These include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity and physical inactivity. Research suggests more than 50% of cancer deaths are preventable by making minor changes to the way of life.
Gilchrist recalled having conversations with her patients about exercise and how they do not have time for it. "I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits," she said.
So far, scientists have linked a sedentary lifestyle with several health conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But little was known about the connection between inactivity and cancer mortality. Previous work on the topic was based on data collected from people reporting their sedentary behavior, which can be unreliable.
Gilchrist wanted objective data rather than self-reports. So, the team deployed monitoring gadgets called accelerometers which measure physical activity. The participants wrapped the device around the hip for seven consecutive days between 2009 and 2013. None of the volunteers had cancer at that beginning of the study.
After five years, the team noted that 268 participants died of cancer, concluding that a sedentary lifestyle is linked to a higher risk of cancer deaths. They also looked at how physical activity influences that risk. Getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise — cycling, swimming, social dancing, brisk walking and the like — may lower mortality rate by 31%. Further, a light-intensity workout such as walking may bring down that risk by 8%.
"From a practical perspective, this means that individuals who replaced either 10 to 30 minutes of sedentary time with either LIPA [low-intensity physical activity] or MVPA [moderate intensity physical activity] had a lower risk of cancer mortality," Gilchrist said. "Our next step is to investigate how objectively measured sedentary behavior impacts site-specific cancer incidence and if gender and race play a role." The study is published in JAMA Oncology.