Women Who Sat Less Lived Longer

Active women who sat for long periods each day had higher risk of early death

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle, but one new study shows it may not be enough for postmenopausal women who have otherwise sedentary lifestyles.

This new study showed that the risk of early death and other health issues rose the more time women spend sitting during the day, even if they were physically fit and active.

The researchers suggested that women who have a desk job or other occupation that requires a lot of sitting make a point to get up and move frequently.

"Take breaks at work to stand up and walk."

This study was led by Rebecca Seguin, PhD, CSCS, from the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The study started with the 93,676 American women between the age of 50 and 79 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHIOS), which recruited participants from 1993 through 1998. This study ended in 2005.

At the conclusion of the WHIOS, 92,234 women agreed to continue in the extended study through 2010. The researchers analyzed the data from this extended study in 2012 and 2013.

The average age of the participants was 63.6, and their average sedentary time was 8.5 hours per day.

The researchers defined sedentary time as sitting and resting but not sleeping.

Dr. Seguin and her team found a 12 percent higher rate of premature death in women who averaged 11 or more hours of sedentary time per day compared to women who had four hours or less sedentary time per day.

This research also pointed to a higher rate of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cancer among the women reporting 11 or more sedentray hours per day.

“The assumption has been that if you’re fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day,” said Dr. Seguin. “In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize.”

The analysis of the data showed that the risk of death remained high even in physically active women with a good overall level of fitness.

“If you’re in an office, get up and move around frequently,” she said. “If you’re retired and have more idle time, find ways to move around inside and outside the house. Get up between TV programs, take breaks in computer and reading time and be conscious of interrupting prolonged sedentary time.”

The researchers said that previous research has shown a link between high sedentary time and poor health.

This study is the largest and most ethnically diverse of its kind to date.

A limitation of this study was the use of self-report to obtain sedentary time, which may introduce measurement bias.

The study was published online January 7 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through Contracts.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2014
Last Updated:
January 23, 2014