Several new research findings indicate that the less sitting a person does, the better — regardless of fitness level.

Over a mean 12-year follow-up, women reporting more than 11 hours of sedentary time per day (sitting and resting, excluding sleeping) had a 12% increase in all-cause premature mortality compared with women reporting four hours or less of inactivity, according to Rebecca Seguin, PhD, CSCS, of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and colleagues.

The most sedentary women had 13%, 27%, and 21% greater risks of death from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cancer, respectively, compared with the most active women, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 

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The findings were based on data from 92,234 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, aged 50 to 79 years at baseline (1993-1998), and were independent of physical mobility and function, chronic disease status, demographic factors and overall fitness.

“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,” observed Seguin in a separate statement. “In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize.”

Men are also vulnerable to the dangers of sitting, findings from a separate study indicate. Men who spent five or more hours a day sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than were men who sat for two hours or less, regardless of how much they exercised, Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, and colleagues reported in Circulation.

Findings from a third study by Dorothy D. Dunlop, PhD, et al in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health showed that among 2,286 adults aged 60 years and older, being sedentary was almost as strong a risk factor for disability as was a lack of moderate vigorous activity.

Every additional hour spent sitting was linked with a doubling of disability risk, despite the amount of moderate exercise performed, the researchers found.


  1. Seguin R et al. J Prev Med. 2014;46[2]:122-135.
  2. Rohm Young D et al. Circ Heart Fail. 2014;7:21-27.
  3. Dunlop D et al. J Phys Act Health. 2014; doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0311