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

sitting all day
(Image credit: POJCHEEWIN YAPRASERT)

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, 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 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.

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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

“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 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 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 Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home - so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows all the best places to splash your cash. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 after graduating from University of Leeds in 2014 with a BA in English and Spanish (which took her to Madrid for a fun Rioja and tapas-packed year). Aleesha has worked for woman&home since 2019, when she joined the team as their digital news writer. A year on the news team gained her quick and reactive writing skills and a love for breaking stories, invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first, an AOP awards nomination and the nickname ‘crazy watch lady’ after she became so obsessed with the royals that she followed breaking news alerts on her Apple Watch.


Before joining the woman&home team, Aleesha wrote for their sister site GoodtoKnow, where she covered celebrity news, health advice and where to snap up the cheapest lifestyle buys. With a background in beauty, Aleesha has also written for Stylist and Women’s Health where she developed an understanding into what makes a stellar product and which brands are worth paying attention to. She never leaves the house without a slick of lip balm and a good slathering of SPF, cannot live without an eyelash curler by her side and is always on the hunt for new lipsticks to add to her ‘Lipstick of the Day’ Instagram story highlight (and color-coordinated collection).

But it’s not just beauty buys Aleesha can help you with. Social media savviness, strong PR relationships and a need to stay in the know mean she’s all about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys too. She loves indulging in an interior craze (with a bedroom drowned in prints, plants and pink), is a regular visitor to the Missoma and Edge of Ember 'New In' pages and can’t resist the allure of a kitchen gadget—just ask her three coffee machines.

When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her sister, trying out new recipes, drinking wine with her bestie and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter amongst her friendship group. Oh and she makes the most of her Disney+ subscription by watching the Marvel films on repeat (definitely not just for Chris Evans...).

Follow her latest shopping & lifestyle advice, beauty insights and social antics on Instagram at @aleeshabadkar.


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Email: aleesha.badkar@futurenet.com