BELFAST, IRELAND — That daily mid-afternoon stroll through the park may just save your life, especially if you’re stuck sitting at your office desk all day, according to a new study out of the United Kingdom.
Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast and Ulster University have found a link between sitting or lounging for long periods of time and 70,000 deaths per year in the UK. All of that relaxation appears to be costing the state a great deal of money as well, with an estimated 700 million pounds a year being spent by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) on treating health complications associated with being sedentary for too long.
The fact that so many people spend a large portion of their days sitting down isn’t necessarily surprising; a large portion of the UK population report to sedentary office jobs each day, and many typical leisure activities after a long day at work primarily involve the couch.
While plenty of us love a good movie marathon or Netflix binge, this isn’t the first evidence that these types of habits probably aren’t doing our bodies any favors. Previous research has shown that sitting for too long each day increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and death. However, no estimates on the monetary cost of sedentary behavior had been made until this study.
To come to their conclusions, researchers cross referenced data from previous studies on the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on five specific conditions (cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, colon cancer, lung cancer, and endometrial cancer) with information collected by the Health Survey for England in 2012 on UK adults day-to-day sedentary habits.
For example, the 2012 survey found that 30% of adults in England spend at least six hours a day sitting per workday. On the weekends, 37% of English adults spent six hours a day sitting.
Additionally, actual NHS spending data for those five diseases in 2016-17 was used, adjusted for inflation, to determine the monetary cost of all that lounging around.
Researchers say their findings suggest sedentary activity was responsible for 11.6% of all UK deaths in 2016, and that 69,276 deaths could may have been avoided that year if people stayed on their feet more often.
“Many individuals in the UK spend their leisure time in sedentary behavior, and the workplace represents a significant proportion of unavoidable daily sitting time for many people,” explains Lead Investigator Leonie Heron of the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.