Nine-to-five sitting in office jobs with low physical demands are fuelling a ‘pandemic’ of inactivity and leading to significant risk of death, second only to smoking. A 45 year study in middle-aged men has shown that adults who sit down for at least eight hours every day must do at least an hour’s daily exercise to undo all the harm, according to the Cambridge University study.
Sitting still is directly responsible for one in six deaths a year, mostly from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia and strokes. The research, published in the Lancet, claims inactivity now takes as many lives as smoking and is far deadlier than obesity.
“The benefits of being physically active over a lifetime are clear, ” said lead author Dr Per Ladenvall, “Low physical capacity is a greater risk for death than high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”
Even brief spurts of activity would help.
Dr Ladenvall said: “We found that low aerobic capacity was associated with increased rates of death. The association between exercise capacity and all-cause death was graded, with the strongest risk in the tertile with the lowest maximum aerobic capacity. The effect of aerobic capacity on risk of death was second only to smoking.”
“The length of follow up in our study is unique, ” continued Dr Ladenvall. “When this study began, most data was derived from hospital cohorts and there was very limited data on exercise testing in a large general population. Our sample is representative of the male population in Gothenburg at that time. The risk associated with low aerobic capacity was evident throughout more than four decades and suggests that being physically active can have a big impact over a lifetime.”
He concluded: “We have come a long way in reducing smoking. The next major challenge is to keep us physically active and also to reduce physical inactivity, such as prolonged sitting.”