According to a new study by researchers at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, adults who sit around during most of the day are more likely to die earlier than people who don't sit around a lot, regardless of their exercise regimens.
The study also suggests that people are less likely to die prematurely if they move around every half hour or so instead of sitting down for extended periods of time without moving.
"We think these findings suggest that it is simply not enough to be active or move at just one specific time of the day, that is, exercise," according to the study's lead author Keith Diaz.
"We need to be mindful of moving frequently throughout the day in addition to exercising," Diaz said in an email to Reuters.
The study's findings were based on data from 7,985 adults 45 and older, who were asked to wear accelerometers for one week.
Seventy-seven percent of adults were sedentary during the day, according to the report which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
On average, the people in the study had sedentary periods lasting 11 minutes, although approximately 14 percent of people had bouts of sedentary time that were at least 90 minutes. In addition, 340 people who were involved in the study were found to have died after an average follow-up of four years.
The researchers also took the study one step further and divided the participants into four groups, from the least sedentary people to the most sedentary, based on their daily activities. They found that the most sedentary people were twice as likely to die during the study period than the least sedentary people.
One of the study's limitations, however, is that the accelerators could not differentiate between sedentary bouts from sitting and idle periods when people were standing.
According to David Alter, the head of cardiovascular and metabolic research for the University Health Network-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute in Canada, long sedentary periods may lead to premature death because of "metabolic toxicity."
"The lack of activity in our muscles affects our ability to metabolize our sugars efficiently," Alter said, adding that, "Over time, our body accumulates excess fat, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and death."
However, the fix may be simple according to the lead author: "Anything that will facilitate movement would be better: treadmill desks, under desk steppers or cycles, or just plain old fashioned walking breaks that can be pretty easily implemented in an office setting," Diaz said.