Scientists discover sitting around all day raises your risk of cancer - and early death

·3-min read
Researchers found that even light exercise can do wonders for your health (Getty Images)
Researchers found that even light exercise can do wonders for your health (Getty Images)

While there has been a rise in those turning to exercise of late, the coronavirus lockdown is likely to have seen many people become a lot more sedentary.

However, a new study has shown just how damaging sitting around all day can be for your health.

Researchers have found that inactivity can raise your risk of cancer - and even lead to early death.

The findings, published in journal JAMA Oncology, also showed that even light physical activity could help counteract this.

Read more: More people are using exercise to help manage their mental health, according to a new survey

Indeed, swapping half-an-hour of sitting with some sort of movement could help lower your risk.

As part of the study, researchers asked 8,000 participants - none of whom had cancer at the start - to track how active they were between 2009 and 2013.

The scientists discovered that those who spent the most time sitting were 82% more likely to have died from cancer compared to the least sedentary people.

This was even after accounting for age, sex, and disease.

Read more: Getting fit during the lockdown could save your life from coronavirus, say health professors

Similarly, those who switched out 30 minutes sitting for movement, like walking, lowered their cancer risk by 8%.

Even better, doing half-an-hour of moderate activity - like a brisk walk, cycling or dancing - brought it down by 31%.

Dr Susan Gilchrist, the lead study author, said: “Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don’t have time to exercise.

“I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Read more: Is it possible to go swimming during the current coronavirus restrictions?

“It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits.

“Our findings reinforce that it’s important to ‘sit less and move more’.

“Incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer.”

It comes as it was revealed the majority of people are now using exercise to manage their mental health during the pandemic, according to a survey published last month.

Read more: Exercising regularly could have an anti-ageing effect on the body, say scientists

Research conducted by Sport England, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, found that 63% of people across the first six weeks of lockdown were staying active to look after their minds.

It discovered that people are turning to fitness as a result of the restrictions on movement since late March.

These included working out at home, running in the park and walking or cycling to the shops for essentials.

Initially, the government allowed people to leave their homes once a day for local activity, and in early May sanctioned unlimited exercise.

The survey also showed that over time, concerns about leaving home have eased - with 60% worried about this in the first fortnight, and a reduced 47% in week six of lockdown.