Skip to content

There’s still a whole world of medical news outside the scope of Covid-19. The invisible world of germs, illnesses, and disease is still alive and well, and on a rampage. And you know what is always making headlines because there is always some new finding?


Researchers have found that too much sitting raises your risk for cancer, according to a new study published in JAMA Oncology

Lead author Dr. Susan Gilchrist, associate professor of clinical cancer prevention at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, says, “This is the first study that definitively shows a strong association between not moving and cancer death.” Adding that, “Our findings reinforce that it’s important to ‘sit less and move more.” She said that replacing at least 30 minutes of sitting with either light, moderate, or vigorous physical activity can lower that risk.

In the study conducted from 2009-2013, around 8,000 participants were asked to wear a tracking device called an accelerometer for seven consecutive days during their waking hours.

None of the people had cancer at the start of the study.

All of the participants were part of a broader, longitudinal study called REGARDS, or Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke, which recruited more than 30,000 American adults over the age of 45 between 2003 and 2007. 

The US National Institutes of Health sponsored REGARDS and was investigating why southerners and African-Americans have higher rates of stroke and vascular issues that lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.

After a five-year follow-up, researchers found that most sedentary people had an 82% higher risk of dying from cancer compared to least sedentary individuals, even after adjusting for age, sex, and disease status.

Of course, prior research has shown that more than 50% of cancer deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. The usual list toppers of a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking were linked to a lower risk.

Dr. Gilchrist commented, “Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don’t have time to exercise. 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.”

By requiring people in this study to wear fitness tracking devices, the researchers found that people who replaced 30 minutes of sitting with low-intensity activity, such as walking, reduced their risk of cancer by 8%. What’s more is that the benefit was even greater for moderate-intensity activity, which reduced the risk of cancer by 31%.

According to the American Heart Association, moderate-intensity activities include:

  • brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour)
  • water aerobics
  • dancing (ballroom or social)
  • gardening
  • tennis (doubles)
  • biking slower than 10 miles per hour

“Incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer,” Gilchrist said. “Our next step is to investigate how objectively measured sedentary behavior impacts site-specific cancer incidence, and if gender and race play a role.”

If that’s not a good enough reason to get up and get active and moving, we don’t know what is!