Sitting During Leisure Time Could Increase Cancer Risk: 10 Ways To Counter The Effects Of Sitting Too Long

Sitting too much
You're sitting way too much and it could lead to you getting cancer. Sholeh CC BY 2.0

Sitting is killing you. There are dozens of articles stating it: It’s the new smoking. If you’re a woman, a new study has shown that leisure-time sitting can put you at risk for a whole slew of different cancers.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society found women who spend their leisure time sitting are at a higher risk of developing myeloma, breast, and ovarian cancer. This was taking into account the woman's BMI, physical activity, and other factors. For men, however, there was no association with leisure-time sitting and cancer risks.

According to a press release, investigators led by Dr. Alpa Patel compared leisure time sitting to cancer risk among more than 146,000 men and women (69,260 men and 77,462 women) who were cancer-free and enrolled in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Between 1992 and 2009, 18,555 men and 12,236 women were diagnosed with cancer. The researchers found that there was a 10 percent higher chance that women would get cancer, even after factoring in their BMI, physical activity, and more. 

“Longer leisure-time spent sitting was associated with a higher risk of total cancer risk in women, and specifically with multiple myeloma, breast and ovarian cancers, but sitting time was not associated with cancer risk in men," the study said. "Further research is warranted to better understand the differences in associations between men and women.”

So, what can you possibly do to combat the negative effects of sitting, especially when your day is so filled with times when sitting is the only option? Medical Daily is here to be your guide through the forest of sedentary and into the wild, lush fields of activity.

Here are some ideas for you to sit less and move more, especially during your work day:

  • Take the stairs
    • If your company is on the first floor, park as far away from the entrance as possible, so you’ll have to walk farther
  • On the phone a lot? Stand up and talk
  • Hold a walking meeting
    • Just imagine you’re on The West Wing
  • Walk after lunch
    • Or use your lunch time to go for a walk, then eat at your desk
  • Drink plenty of water
    • You’ll have to refill often and go to the bathroom as well
  • Consider a standing desk
    • Try and get one that converts, so you don’t get stuck standing all day
  • Set reminders
    • Use your phone or computer to remind you every hour to move
  • Do mini exercises at your desk
    • It may seem a little silly, but your health is no laughing matter
  • If you need to talk to someone, go talk to them
    • Get up and walk instead of calling, emailing. or IM’ing
  • Be grateful for household chores that require movement
    • Taking out the trash never felt so good

There are plenty more ways to get you moving over the course of the day. Team up with a buddy to keep each other motivated, take laps around the office every hour, walk on your treadmill or ride a stationary bike while watching TV.  

These aren’t hard and fast rules, however; just think of them as guidelines to lead a more active life.

Standing isn’t the end all, be all, however. It can lead to just as many issues as sitting, especially if you find yourself standing for 75 percent of your day.

What you need to do is find the happy medium. That magical place where you stand and sit for an equal amount of time during the course of the day. When you find it, you’ll realize that you feel better and have more energy, which leads to more productivity over the course of the day.

Source: Patel AV, Hildebrand JS, Campbell PT, et al. Leisure-time spent sitting and site-specific cancer incidence in a large US cohort. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2015. 

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