Don’t Just Sit There!

Bored Man Sitting on Couch Watching TV

Evidence is growing that sitting time, no matter how much exercise you get when you aren’t sitting, increases the likelihood of developing cancer, especially for women.

In an American Cancer Society study, women who spent 6 hours or more a day sitting outside of work had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day, and an increased risk for other cancer types as well.

Previous studies have found links between sitting time and dying younger for both men and women. Alpa Patel, PhD, co-author of the study and also American Cancer Society strategic director, Cancer Prevention Study-3, says sitting is linked to dying younger even for people who get a lot of physical activity.

The American Cancer Society recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week, and limit time spent sitting when possible.

At home, people can make small changes that reduce their sitting time such as standing up while folding laundry and watching TV, according to Patel. At work, she recommends:

  • Parking farther away from where you’re going, so you walk more
  • Standing during conference calls
  • Making short meetings “standing” meetings, if you’re the organizer
  • Taking a 1-2 minute standing or walking break every hour

Patel says, “For optimal health and cancer prevention, meet physical activity recommendations and reduce time spent sitting.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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