Nearly 4% of all the people who die every year across the world — approximately 4,33,000 — die because of their sedentary lifestyle, spending more than three hours a day just sitting down, finds a new study.
Various studies over the last decade have demonstrated how the excessive amount of time we spend sitting down may increase the risk of death, regardless of whether or not we exercise.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, now estimates the proportion of deaths attributable to that ‘chair effect’ in the population of 54 countries, using data from 2002 to 2011.
“It is important to minimise sedentary behaviour in order to prevent premature deaths around the world,” said lead author of the study Leandro Rezende from University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
He also highlighted that “cutting down on the amount of time we sit could increase life expectancy by 0.20 years in the countries analysed.”
The results revealed that over 60% of people worldwide spend more than three hours a day sitting down — the average in adults is 4.7 hours/day — and this is the culprit behind 3.8% of deaths.
Among the territories studied, there were more deaths in the regions of the Western Pacific, followed by European countries, the Eastern Mediterranean, America and Southeast Asia.
The highest rates were found in Lebanon (11.6%), the Netherlands (7.6%) and Denmark (6.9%), while the lowest rates were in Mexico (0.6%), Myanmar (1.3%) and Bhutan (1.6%).
The authors calculated that reducing the amount of time we sit by about two hours (by half) would mean a 2.3 per cent decrease in mortality.
Even a more modest reduction in sitting time, by 10% or half an hour per day, could have an immediate impact on all causes of mortality (0.6%) in the countries evaluated.
In the words of the experts, measures aimed at addressing the determining factors behind this sedentary conduct would be necessary.
“Some examples of this approach were recently highlighted by the World Health Organisation,” Rezende said.
“For example, a strategic health communication campaign was developed to promote physical activity among women in Tonga (Oceania), while a bicycle-sharing system was developed in Iran in addition to a sustainable transport system in Germany,” he noted.