Stand Up and Save 2 Years of Your Life

The newest study on sedentary behavior finds out exactly how much less we need to sit and watch TV to increase our life expectancy.

New research shows that sitting for less than three hours a day increase one's life expectancy by two years. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Victor1558.

“Stand up.”

It’s become the phrase of the year in offices throughout the country, ever since a wealth of studies explored the relationship between sitting and life expectancy.

Results from the newest study on sedentary behavior is no different. Researchers have found that reducing your sitting time to less than three hours a day can add an extra two years to your life. In addition, watching TV for less than two hours can extend one’s life by about 1.4 years.

For the study, researchers pooled data from five different studies that analyzed the relationship between sedentary behavior, TV watching habits, and risk of death over the course of the study, totaling 167,000 US adults. They also took account of age and sex.

Their analysis found a causal relationship among limiting sitting to less than three hours a day, limiting TV viewing to less than two hours a day, and an increased life expectancy at birth in the US. However, researchers noted: “Life expectancy is a population statistic and does not apply to individuals.” Therefore, they said, one should not assume that since one person is more sedentary than another it means he or she will live 1.4 to 2 years less. Since it is a theoretical estimate, more research needs to be done using an incidence-based approach, during which individuals’ habits could be followed over time.

Still, the findings are significant, especially for a country where the average adult spends about 7.7 hours a day sitting or engaging in some sort of non-active manner. Sedentary behavior has been associated with increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In addition to reducing sitting time to less than three hours a day and TV viewing to less than two, it’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

The easiest fix? Stand up. Your body will thank you.

The full study was published in the online journal BMJ Open.