How to Live Longer—Even If You Sit All Day, New Research Shows

Sitting slashes longevity. Here's how to add years back to your life.

If you spend six or more hours per day sitting or lying down and otherwise lack physical activity in your routine, you are, by definition, leading a sedentary lifestyle. This can have a huge impact on your health and longevity, doubling your risk of cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It can also "increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The good news? A new study says that even if you sit all day—let's say for a desk job—there are ways to offset the negative effects and live longer. Here's how to live a healthier life despite long periods of sitting, according to the experts.

RELATED: 7 Biggest Health Risks of Sitting All Day, Doctors Say.

Millions of deaths are attributed to sedentary lifestyles globally.

Doctor using digital tablet and talking to patient at home
iStock

The problem of sedentary living is more widespread than you might realize, the WHO says. "Sixty to 85 percent of people in the world—from both developed and developing countries—lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of our time," the health authority warns.

In fact, the organization notes that over two million deaths are attributed to physical inactivity every year. This places sedentary lifestyle among the top 10 causes of death and disability in the world.

RELATED: This Daily Walking Plan Might Be All the Cardio You Need, New Study Shows.

A recent study highlights how sitting increases your mortality risk.

A man works on a laptop in bed in a bedroom.
Igor Serik / Shutterstock

Sitting for six hours at a time may sound excessive, but studies show that many people sit for far longer on a daily basis. In fact, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that looked at roughly 12,000 individuals found that just 5,943 individuals sat less than 10.5 hours daily, while 6,042 sat for 10.5 hours or more.

Individuals who sat for more than 12 hours per day were at the greatest risk for adverse health effects. That group saw a 38 percent increase in mortality risk, compared to those who sat for eight hours a day or less.

Exercising for 22 minutes daily can offset the effects.

Yoga and Pilates Barre fit
iStock / Tempura

Now for the good news. Even among the people who sat the most, getting a concentrated bout of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least 22 minutes per day offset the effects of prolonged sitting. It even helped to lower the risk of premature death or disability among the individuals in the study.

If completed daily, this amount of exercise totals just over 150 minutes per week, fulfilling the physical activity quota recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: People Who Live to 100 Have These 3 Things in Common, New Research Shows.

More is better—especially when the rest of your day is sedentary.

senior couple enjoying a run
iStock / PeopleImages

As long as people exercised for at least 22 minutes at some point in the day, they lowered their mortality risk regardless of the hours they spent sitting, the researchers say. However, the team notes that increasing the amount or intensity of exercise could help further offset the negative effects of sitting.

That's why, if you tend to sit for long stretches, it may be especially worthwhile to challenge yourself when you do get moving. Staying consistent and kicking your workout up a notch could just save your life.

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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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