Sitting for long periods of time can have a “deleterious effect on health outcomes”, a new study indicates.

Latest research conducted in Taiwan has found that people who sit down for long periods of time at work are 16% more at risk of dying early compared to those with a more physical job.

In addition, employees who sit for a prolonged amount of time are 34% more at risk of dying from heart disease.

Experts have claimed that prolonged sitting triggers similar health complications that smoking can cause.

During the study, the team of researchers examined the health and lifestyle behaviours of nearly 500,000 people.

Over a 20-year time period, the scientists looked at how occupational sitting impacted the participant’s health and mortality risk.

They found that the participants who sat for long periods of time whilst they were at work and in their spare time were more likely to die earlier than those who had a more active lifestyle.

However, the participants who had sedentary work lives but exercised during their free time were not at high risk of dying early.

According to the researchers, individuals can reduce their risk of early death and cardiovascular disease by vigorously exercising for 15 to 30 minutes.

The results show that 26,257 deaths were recorded during the study.

More than half of the deaths occurred in people who predominantly engaged in sitting at work.

“Systemic changes, such as more frequent breaks, standing desks, designated workplace areas for physical activity, and gym membership benefits, can help reduce risk,” said the authors.

Senior author Dr Wayne Gao said: “As part of modern lifestyles, prolonged occupational sitting is considered normal and has not received due attention, even though its deleterious effect on health outcomes has been demonstrated.

“Our findings suggest that reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace and/or increasing the volume or intensity of daily physical activity may be beneficial in mitigating the elevated risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease associated with prolonged occupational sitting.”

Fellow author Dr Min-Kuang Tsai said: “The fact that there is no increased risk for those who alternate between sitting and non-sitting at work suggests that incorporating regular breaks in work settings can be beneficial.

“The increased risks for those who are mainly sedentary can be offset by an extra 15 to 30 minutes per day of exercise per day, or by participating in more physically intense activities.”

Prolong sitting is also associated with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and reduced kidney function, the study has reported.

Dr Tsai concluded: “Employers can play a role in facilitating this by providing designated areas for leisure time physical activity or offering company-sponsored group activities.

“Overall, our findings from this large prospective cohort help to strengthen the increasingly accumulating evidence linking a sedentary lifestyle and health risks.”

The study findings were published in the journal Jama Network Open.

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