Sitting for long periods of time is associated with early death regardless of the amount of time a person exercises, findings of a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggest.

Keith Diaz, from the Columbia University Department of Medicine, and colleagues examined the data of nearly 8,000 people who were at least 45 years old. The researchers also asked the participants to wear accelerometers so they can measure their activity levels.

Prolonged Sitting Linked To Higher Risk Of Death

Diaz and colleagues calculated the mortality risk of the participants based on their total sedentary time and sedentary patterns. They found that those with the highest amount of sedentary time equivalent to more than 13 hours per day, and who tend to have sitting bouts of at least 60 to 90 consecutive minutes, had nearly a two-fold increased risk of death than those who had the least total sedentary time and the shortest sedentary bouts.

"To give you a specific number, those who sat for more than 13 hours per day had a 2-fold (or 200%) greater risk of death compared to those who sat for less than about 11 hours per day," Diaz said.

Physical Exercise May Not Undo Harms Of Prolonged Sitting

The researchers found that in general, the participants' risk of death increases relative to their total sitting time and sitting stretch duration regardless of sex, age, race, body mass index or exercise habits. Experts in particular noted how the study suggests that a workout will not undo the harms associated with prolonged sitting.

"Even if you're a gymgoer and think you're safe on account of your excellent effort, you are not," said James Levine, from Mayo Clinic. "No one gets away from this stuff. ... Excess sitting, this study seems to suggest, is a death sentence."

Take A Movement Break Every 30 Minutes

Those who kept their sitting bouts to less than half an hour had the lowest odds for premature death. The researchers said that this means that for those whose job or lifestyle requires them to sit for extended periods of time, taking a movement break every 30 minutes may help reduce their death risk.

"Both the total volume of sedentary time and its accrual in prolonged, uninterrupted bouts are associated with all-cause mortality, suggestive that physical activity guidelines should target reducing and interrupting sedentary time to reduce risk for death," Diaz and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

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