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Previous studies have suggested that prolonged sitting time is associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks and mortality in high-income countries. However, it remains unclear whether the risks also increase in low- and middle-income countries.

People who sat for six to eight hours a day had a 12-to 13 percent higher risk of early death and heart disease, according to worldwide research of more than 100,000 people in 21 nations, while those who sat for more than eight hours a day had a dismal 20% higher risk.

Scientists followed individuals over an average of 11 years and determined that high amounts of sitting time were associated with an increased risk of early death and cardiovascular disease. While sitting was problematic in all countries, it was especially so in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

Those who sat the most and were the least active had the highest risk—up to 50%—while those who sat the most but were also the most active had a significantly reduced risk of around 17%.

Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Scott Lear said, “The overarching message here is to minimize how much you sit. If you must sit, getting more exercise during other times of the day will offset that risk.”

“For those sitting more than four hours a day, replacing a half-hour sitting with exercise reduced the risk by two percent. With only one in four Canadians meeting the activity guidelines, there’s a real opportunity for people to increase their activity and reduce their chances of early death and heart disease.”

The study discovered a distinct link in lower-income countries, prompting scientists to suggest that sitting in higher-income countries is often connected with greater socio-economic status and higher-paying jobs.

Lear noted, “Clinicians should focus on less sitting and more activity as it’s a low-cost intervention that can have enormous benefit.”

“But while clinicians need to get the message out about countering sitting with activity, individuals need to assess their lifestyles better and take their health seriously. Our study found that a combination of sitting and inactivity accounted for 8.8 percent of all deaths, which is close to the contribution of smoking (10.6 percent in Lear and Li’s study).”

“It’s a global problem that has a straightforward fix. Scheduling time to get out of that chair is a great start.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Sidong Li, et al. Association of Sitting Time With Mortality and Cardiovascular Events in High-Income, Middle-Income, and Low-Income Countries. DOI: 10.1001/jamacardio.2022.1581

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