Health Study Links Sitting to Earlier Death in Women

January 22, 2014

A health study led by a Cornell nutritional scientist showed that women who spent the majority of their day in a sedentary position died earlier than women who remained active. The study included 93,000 postmenopausal American women and sedentary time was defined as sitting and resting.

The health study went on to reveal that even women who exercised regularly were at risk of early death if they spent most of the day sitting. More than 11 hours of daily sitting or sedentary time led to a 12 percent increase in premature mortality – this may seem like a small amount, but the sedentary group also experienced an increase of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cancer by 13, 27 and 21 percent.

The nutritional scientist who led the health study reported that being physically fit and active every day was not enough to protect women from the negative health effects of sitting.

Sitting for a longer period of time made it harder for women to regain their physical strength. Women started to lose muscle mass at age 35, which led to an earlier onset of menopause. Daily exercise is ideal to keep the risk at bay, but more movement throughout a women’s day is key to maintaining health.

“In general, a use it or lose it philosophy applies,” the nutritional scientist said. “We have a lot of modern conveniences and technologies that, while making us more efficient, also lead to decreased activity and diminished ability to do things. Women need to find ways to remain active.”

Women with desk jobs aren’t getting the amount of movement they need to stay active during the day, but middle aged women and younger should start adopting changes to make a difference.

The scientist recommended getting up and moving around frequently at the office, and to take breaks between computer and reading time. She suggested retired women should find time to move around inside and outside the house.

“Some earlier studies found a more dramatic effect on mortality risk from [sitting] time, and others are similar to our findings,” she said. “Collectively, this adds to the growing body of research linking inactivity to poor health outcomes.”

Beyond linking sitting time with poor health, this is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse health studies of its type. The women ranged in ages of 50 to 79, and were observed for over 12 or more years.

See the full article from the Cornell Chronicle, HERE.

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