Living a sedentary lifestyle is responsible for 4 percent of all-cause mortality worldwide, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine claims.
Researchers from San Jorge University in Zaragoza, Spain began gathering data for the study in November 2015, analyzing surveys on sitting time collected from 54 countries, with a sample size of over one billion people, representing approximately 25 percent of the world’s total population in 2005. The surveys were conducted between 2002 and 2011. The researchers also analyzed national statistics within life tables, measuring life expectancy and population size.
After analyzing the data sets, researchers determined that individuals who did not sit for more than three hours per day experience a gain in life expectancy when compared to their sedentary counterparts, who experienced a greater chance of all-cause mortality, which refers to deaths that occur through any means.
“It is important to minimize sedentary behavior in order to prevent premature deaths around the world,” Leandro Rezende, the study’s lead author, said in a statement to the Information and Scientific News Service. “Cutting down on the amount of time we sit could increase life expectancy by 0.20 years in the countries analyzed.”
Time spent sitting was the cause of 3.8 percent of deaths across 54 different countries, with countries from the American, Eastern Mediterranean, European, Southeast Asian and Western Pacific regions having the highest number of all-cause mortality cases resulting from sitting.
The findings are concurrent with an epidemic of physical inactivity that is afflicting a significant portion of the global population. According to a study published in The Lancet in July 2012, approximately 31 percent of the world’s population, ages 15 years or older, does not meet current physical activity recommendations. This statistic increases to 80 percent when looking at individuals aged 13 to 15.
Although physical activity is important to living a long life, the effect of moderate to vigorous physical activity on extending life span is not as effective when coupled with excessive time spent sitting. A study published in PLOS One in November 2013 found that for every hour after seven hours spent sitting, an individual’s risk of all-cause mortality increased by 5 percent, regardless of one’s level of exercise.
Across the analyzed countries, individuals were found to sit an average of 4.7 hours per day. Toward the higher end of the spectrum, individuals in Western Pacific countries were found to be sedentary an average of 6.2 hours a day. More than 61 percent of individuals in American countries were found to be sedentary for more than three hours a day, compared to nearly 65 percent of people in Western Pacific countries.
However, even sitting for more than three hours per day was found to be responsible for an estimated 433,000 deaths. In the United States alone, not sitting for more than three hours a day would save over 100,000 lives.
If one were to reduce his or her time spent sitting each day by 30 minutes, all-cause mortality rates would decrease by 0.6 percent. All-cause mortality would decrease by triple that number if time spent sitting was reduced by two hours each day. The amount of time a society spends excessively sitting depends on a variety of factors, including a society’s current economic model, machinery and devices used in labor and its urban environment. For example, in areas where people must travel long distances by car, sedentary lifestyles are much more common.