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Prolonged sitting at work linked to increased mortality risk

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open reports that prolonged sitting on the workplace can potentially increase the chance of all-cause mortality and mortality from heart problems. A workplace arrangement of alternating sitting and non-sitting might help reduce this mortality risk.



Study: Occupational Sitting Time, Leisure Physical Activity, and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Image Credit: fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Background

A sedentary lifestyle has develop into increasingly pervasive in modern life. Many workplaces now demand prolonged sitting arrangements despite awareness of the adversarial health effects related to prolonged sedentary behavior.

In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines recommending reduced sedentary behaviors resulting from their health consequences. These guidelines agree with the 2018 United States and 2019 United Kingdom guidelines on physical activity that discourage prolonged sitting.

Previous studies investigating leisure-time physical activity indicate that a certain level of day by day physical activity may mitigate the adversarial health effects of prolonged sitting.

Study design

In the present study, scientists investigate the impact of prolonged occupational sitting on all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease-related mortality amongst individuals residing in Taiwan. Additionally they quantify the quantity of leisure-time physical activity and intensity required to mitigate the negative health effects related to prolonged sitting.

The present study included 481,688 adult individuals with no history of heart problems at baseline. Study participants were monitored for roughly 12 years between 1996 and 2017. During each follow-up visit, the participants accomplished a questionnaire on their medical history and lifestyle risk aspects and provided biological samples for testing.

Three forms of occupational sitting arrangements were considered within the study, which included mostly sitting, alternating sitting and non-sitting, and mostly non-sitting. Study participants were asked to supply their weekly leisure-time physical activity intensity and duration within the last month. Based on the reports, study participants were categorized into five leisure-time physical activity groups, including inactive, low, medium, high, and really high.

Physical activity levels were estimated using the private activity intelligence (PAI) metric, a physical activity tracker that may incorporate personalized heart rates in response to activity. Information on all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related mortality was obtained from the Taiwan National Death Registry. Deaths that occurred inside the initial two years of follow-up were excluded to stop reverse causality.     

Necessary observations

About 60% of the study cohort was within the mostly sitting group, 10% within the mostly non-sitting group, and 29% within the alternating sitting and non-sitting group. Physically inactive status was reported by 47% of the mostly sitting group participants, 51% of the alternating sitting and non-sitting group participants, and 57% of the mostly non-sitting group participants.

A complete of 26,257 deaths were recorded through the study’s follow-up period of 12 years. Of those deaths, roughly 57% occurred within the mostly sitting group. Amongst 5,371 cardiovascular disease-related deaths, 60% occurred within the mostly sitting group.

After adjusting for sex, age, education level, smoking, and drinking status, and body mass index (BMI), the evaluation revealed that individuals mostly sitting at work have 16% and 34% greater risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, as in comparison with those with mostly non-sitting occupational arrangements. In comparison with mostly non-sitting participants, alternating sitting and non-sitting participants weren’t related to an increased mortality risk.

A significantly increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk within the mostly sitting group was observed amongst men, women, participants younger and older than 60 years of age, smokers, never smokers, and individuals with chronic health conditions, akin to diabetes and hypertension.

Considering individuals with leisure-time physical activity levels starting from inactive to high, a significantly higher all-cause mortality risk was observed within the mostly sitting group as in comparison with those within the mostly non-sitting and alternating sitting and non-sitting groups. Nonetheless, no significant differences in mortality risk were observed between the studied occupational sitting groups at a really high leisure-time physical activity level.   

For people mostly sitting at work with low or no leisure-time physical activity, a rise in leisure-time physical activity by 15 and Half-hour day by day reduced their mortality risk to a level much like that of inactive individuals mostly non-sitting at work. A significantly reduced mortality risk was also observed for people with a PAI rating of greater than 100.

Study significance

The present study finds that prolonged occupational sitting can increase all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks. This risk might be attenuated by taking regular breaks at work and completing day by day 15-Half-hour of leisure-time physical activity.

Journal reference:

  • Gao, W., Sanna, M., Chen, Y., et al. (2024). Occupational Sitting Time, Leisure Physical Activity, and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. JAMA Network Open. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.50680
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