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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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December 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 10)

Sitting too long claims 50,000 lives a year in the UK
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Sitting too long claims 50,000 lives a year in the UK image

Sitting has been described as 'the new smoking'—a problem that is claiming 50,000 lives a year in the UK alone.

Just 30 minutes of some physical activity—instead of sitting—every day can halve the rate of premature deaths from heart disease and cancer, another research group has found.

Spending much of the day sitting around increases the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer—and, ultimately, death, with around 50,000 people in the UK dying as a result, say researchers from Queen's University Belfast.

Around 30 per cent of adults spend at least six hours a day during the week sitting around—and this rises to 37 per cent at the weekends. Around a third of people who are sedentary will have at least two of the big diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

They reckon that more than 11 per cent of deaths recorded in 2016 had a direct correlation to a sedentary lifestyle; put another way, more than 69,000 deaths that year could have been avoided had the people been more active.

And it doesn't take much, say researchers from the American Cancer Society. They reckon that substituting just 30 minutes of sitting for some physical activity would halve the mortality levels from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

They reviewed the lifestyles, and activity levels, of more than 92,000 people for 14 years. Looking at the least active—defined as doing less than 17 minutes a day of any exercise—replacing 30 minutes of sitting for light activity reduced the risk of premature death by 14 per cent and substituting it for moderate to vigorous exercise lowered the risk to 45 per cent.


(Sources: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2019; jech-2018-211758 (Queen's University study); American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2019; doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.12.006 (American Cancer Society study)

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