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Sitting is the New Smoking

Jul. 2, 2014|794 views
Man Watching TV Spread

A new study shines light on a recently identified risk factor for three types of cancer. Sitting. That's right. Sitting too much is a direct risk factor for endometrial, colon, and lung cancers. So-called "sedentary behavior"—meaning that you spend a lot of time parked in front of the television, or otherwise not moving—has been emerging as a risk factor for chronic disease and death for several years now. But a new study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, nails down some specific numbers. It concludes that time spent in front of the tube is directly related to an increased risk of at least three types of cancer.

Investigators performed a meta-analysis, reviewing and analyzing data gathered by other researchers. The data included information gathered from more than 70,000 cancer patients. Among patients with the three aforementioned cancers, sitting was directly related to the risk of developing cancer, even when the person spent some time exercising. In fact, the researchers broke things down by time spent sitting at one's job, time spent sitting watching television, and overall sitting time. Most of these behaviors were more or less equally harmful, but time spent watching television, in particular, was associated with a significantly increased risk of endometrial cancer.

There was a small ray of sunshine in this sobering report. Risks of certain other cancers, including cancers of the breast, rectum, ovaries, prostate, stomach, esophagus, testes, kidneys, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, were evidently not influenced by time spent sitting. Even so, I think this latest research confirms, in no uncertain terms, what I've been saying all along: to stay healthy you need to get up off your tukhus and move!

In a way, this can be viewed as good news. In the 1950s no one knew that cigarette smoking was bad for you. Eventually, though, scientists sounded the alarm that smoking is a direct, significant risk factor for lung cancer and heart disease. It took decades, but society finally reacted, taking concrete steps to eliminate this easily avoidable risk factor. Perhaps one day, we'll view sedentary behavior much the same way we view smoking: as a risky behavior that could kill you.

Schmid D1, Leitzmann MF2.Television Viewing and Time Spent Sedentary in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Meta-analysis.J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014 Jun 16;106(7). pii: dju098. doi: 10.1093/jnci/dju098. Print 2014 Jul.

Tags:  exercise, cancer risks, prevention