A Taiwanese study found people who mostly sat during their workday had a 16% higher risk of dying than those who didn't. They were also 34% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday / Kendall Rodriguez

You're not going to want to sit down for this news.

A new study out of Taiwan found that individuals who sit at work most of the day are 34% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease — and 16% more likely to die of all causes — than those who mostly don’t sit on the job.

But the authors of the report, which appeared Friday on the JAMA Network, an open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association, found the risks associated with being stationary at work can be lessened with getting up occasionally during the workday or spending 15 to 30 minutes per day on moderate physical activity.

“These findings suggest that reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace and/or increasing the volume or intensity of daily physical activity may be beneficial in mitigating the elevated risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease associated with prolonged occupational sitting,” the report states.

Dr. Adam Auerbach, medical director for Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, said while smoking remains the worst habit for an individual's health, living a sedentary lifestyle is not far off.

“This really quantifies the significance of being sedentary at work,” Auerbach said. “But it also kind of lays out what you need to do in order to negate that risk in terms of exercising outside of work.”

Auerbach said practical solutions, such as taking regular breaks at work or using standing desks, can help negate the effects of prolonged sitting although their benefits pale in comparison with regular exercise.

The study tracked 481,688 Taiwanese adults over a nearly 13-year period who participated in an annual or biannual health checkup program. Participants were categorized in three groups: those who sat most of the workday; those who alternated between sitting and standing; and those who stood primarily on the job.

Even after adjusting for factors that could potentially influence early mortality, such as smoking, heavy drinking and obesity, the mostly seated individuals had a 16% higher rate of overall death, and a 34% higher rate of succumbing to cardiovascular-related ailments, compared with those who mostly didn't sit, researchers found.

These findings held across numerous subpopulations, including age, gender and those with preexisting conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Meanwhile, individuals alternating between sitting and nonsitting at work did not experience a similar increased all-cause mortality risk, the report found.

The report noted several possible reasons that could explain the harms of prolonged sitting, including a lack of exercise of the large muscles in the lower limbs and trunk, as well as the presence of a biomarker for low-grade inflammation.

“Such factors can lead to reduced insulin action, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and reduced kidney function,” the authors wrote. 

Monique Johnson, of Hempstead, worked for several years as a customer service representative for an insurance company where she spent nearly the entire day seated. She now suffers from back, leg and nerve issues she attributes to prolonged sitting at work.

“Sitting down for long periods of time all day is not good,” Johnson said after leaving a doctor's appointment Friday in Lake Success.

Elsewhere in Lake Success, barber Dennis Ibragimov, who stands most of the workday, said he agreed with the study's premise but added that his job is not always easy on his legs and feet.

“You always want to be moving around,” he said. “You just don't want to stay in one spot.”

With Shari Einhorn

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