Sitting all day could raise cancer risk - but there’s a small lifestyle change that can help

sitting all day

We all know that a slightly active lifestyle is more beneficial than a sedentary lifestyle.

But with many of us doing jobs that require us to sit at desks for hours on end, and then of course evenings spent devouring every new series or cult film we can find on Netflix, BBC iPlayer or the new and already very popular Disney+ streaming service (opens in new tab), most of us end up sitting for longer hours than we would like.

And now a new study has revealed a major health consequence of spending too much time each day sitting (opens in new tab) instead of standing or walking.

A study by researchers at the University of Texas found that sitting too much can raise the risk of developing cancer or experiencing an early death.

MORE: 13 Causes Of Lower Back Pain That Might Surprise You (opens in new tab)

However, researchers also found a quick and easy lifestyle change that can significantly reduce these risks.

While you might have thought that the only way around the detrimental effects would be to introduce intense workouts, you can reduce the risks simply by swapping half an hour of sitting for half an hour of moving around.

The researchers found that taking a form of light exercise for just 30 minutes instead of sitting for that time can reduce the risk of developing cancer by eight per cent.

sitting all day

The study looked at 8,000 participants wearing accelerometers between 2009 and 2013 and tracked their movement to come up with their findings.

Even after regulating the results to account for factors like age, gender, and disease, the research found that those who lead more sedentary lifestyles were 82 per cent more likely to die from cancer compared to more active people.

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

MORE: Study reveals the easy physical activity you can do to help you live longer (opens in new tab)

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

Easy ways to incorporate more exercise

  • Take a quick walk during your lunch break
  • Participate in video calls and virtual meetings with headphones while on the move
  • Do three quick 10-minute workouts (opens in new tab) in your living when you can fit them in
  • Ride your bike down to the shop
  • Walk to cross off any nearby errands instead of jumping in the car
  • Plan a social-distanced walk to catch up with friends and family
  • Do chair exercises (opens in new tab) while you're working
  • Work at a standing desk or kitchen island instead of sitting at a table or sofa
  • Bounce on an exercise ball instead of sitting on a desk chair while working

Aleesha is a digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows what the best buys are at any moment. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. A year on the w&h news team gained her invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first—as well as an AOP awards nomination.