Every few months we read about how excessive sitting is bad for your health. A recent study has gone one step further and determined that excessive sitting can increase older women’s risk of early death.
The study, led by Cornell University nutritional scientist Rebecca Seguin, evaluated 92,234 postmenopausal women aged 50-79 years old. The women were part of the Woman’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which compares women’s lifestyle, environment, genetics and medical risk factors against the risk of developing heart or other diseases. The women were monitored for over 12 years.
The researchers found that women with over 11 hours of sedentary time had a 12 percent increase in mortality compared to those with four hours or less of inactivity. Sedentary time was defined as sitting and resting, excluding sleeping. The average amount of time the women were sedentary was 9-10 hours a day.
The association was found even when researchers controlled for variables such as those with physically limited mobility, chronic disease, demographics and overall fitness level.
“The assumption has been that if you’re fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day,” said Seguin.
However, even if the women were active during other hours of the day, they still had an increased mortality risk.
The sedentary group also had “increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cancer by 13, 27 and 21 percent, respectively.”
Seguin said that women begin to lose muscle mass starting at age 35. When women become sedentary, it makes it harder for them to regain physical strength and function.
It is important to do muscle-building activities such as lifting weights. She went on to say that this type of research shows how important having regular activity is for maintaining health.
The authors stated that the study results may not be the same for men or younger women. One of the weaknesses of the study is that the amount of sedentary activity was self-reported.
However, the study showed similarity to other studies that report average sedentary time of older women as 9-10 hours a day. Since the data for this study was collected over several years, it may be considered to be generally reliable.
The study was published in the January 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Too Much Sitting Raises Early Death Risk For Women. Web Feb. 25, 2014.
Don’t just sit there! Prolonged sitting linked to early mortality in women. Cornell University.org. Web Feb. 25, 2014.
Seguin, Rebecca PhD, CSCS et al. Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women. The Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Prev Med 2014;46(2):122–135 .
Women's Health Initiative Clinical Trial and Observational Study SHARe.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith