Debbie Nicholson

New study reveals four or more hours of sitting has a significant higher risk for chronic diseases like cancer

Dr. Richard Rosenkranz, PhD, MS, assistant professor of human nutrition and researcher, Kansas State University in collaboration with fellow researchers from School of Science and Health, University of Western Sydney, investigated the link between sitting time and chronic diseases in middle-aged Australian males.

In comparison to females, males experience a range of health unfairness including higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although sitting time is rising as a distinct risk factor for chronic diseases, research on the association of sitting time and chronic disease in middle-aged Australian males is limited, according to the study’s background.

For this study a sample of 63,048 males, aged 45 to 64 years, from the Australian state of New South Wales. Participants had self-reported the presence or absence of various chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, combined chronic diseases), along with daily sitting time identified as less than four hours, six to eight hours or more than eight hours. Physical activity was also recorded.

The study revealed those participants that had reported sitting more than four hours a day were significantly more likely to report having chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The participants who reported sitting six to eight hours or more than eight hours were also significantly more likely to report having diabetes in comparison to those who sat less than four hours daily.

Dr. Rosenkranz commented "We saw a steady stair-step increase in risk of chronic diseases the more participants sat.” "The group sitting more than eight hours clearly had the highest risk."

In their conclusion the researchers write “Our findings suggest that higher volumes of sitting time are significantly associated with diabetes and overall chronic disease, independent of physical activity and other potentially confounding factors. Prospective studies using valid and reliable measures into domain-specific sitting time in middle-aged males are required to understand and explain the direction of these relationships.”

"We know that with very high confidence that more physically active people do better with regard to chronic disease compared with less physically active people, but we should also be looking at reducing sitting.” "A lot of office jobs that require long periods of sitting may be hazardous to your health because of inactivity and the low levels of energy expenditure,” says Dr. Rosenkranz.

Researchers discovered consistent findings in those who had a similar physical activity level, age, income, education, weight and height. Participants who sat more reported more chronic diseases even if they had a similar body mass index compared with those who sat less.

Dr. Rosenkranz remarked "It's not just that people aren't getting enough physical activity, but it's that they're also sitting too much.” "And on top of that, the more you sit, the less time you have for physical activity."

Dr. Rosenkranz explained the study focused on males because they have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, but it is probably applicable in adults across gender, race and ethnicity. He also added little is known about sitting in children and chronic diseases.

Although there may be additional underlying factors influencing the development of chronic disease, as well as reported sitting time and physical activity, our findings suggest that sitting time is a distinct lifestyle factor that may be considered in efforts to decrease chronic disease in middle-aged Australian males according to the researchers. They further add that although most of the current evidence is suggestive of a causal connection, they cannot be certain in this study whether volumes of sitting time led to the development of chronic diseases or whether the chronic diseases influenced sitting time.

In closing Dr. Rosenkranz commented "It's a classic case of, 'Which came first: The chicken or the egg?'"

This study is published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Do you have sitting disease? The term “Sitting Disease” has been coined by the scientific community and is commonly used when referring to metabolic syndrome and the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. However, the medical community does not recognize Sitting Disease as a diagnosable disease at this time, according to

Information on combatting sitting disease is available online at the website.


Slideshow; Sitting and chronic diseases

Associated article; Dire health outcomes from extended sedentary time