A new study suggests that the total amount of time that people spend sitting is associated with a higher risk of death from cancer. Replacing some of this sedentary time with light physical activity appears to reduce the risk.

Getting regular physical activity is a proven way for people to lower their chance of developing cancer and dying from it.

The American Cancer Society recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week.

However, research suggests that fewer than one-quarter of adults in the United States actually achieve this.

A more attainable goal may be to reduce the amount of time that we spend sitting.

An analysis of previous studies linked sedentary behavior to higher cardiovascular and cancer mortality. However, all these studies relied on people’s own reports of how much time they spent sitting.

The new study, by scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, drew on the data of 8,002 adults aged 45 years and older who joined the ongoing REGARDS study between 2003 and 2007.

The researchers found that participants with the greatest total sedentary time had a 52% increased risk of dying from cancer compared with those who had the least sedentary time. However, there was notable uncertainty as to the exact size of the effect, with the best estimate ranging from a 1% to a 127% increased risk.

The results support the idea that persuading people to reduce their sedentary behavior, rather than just exercise more, could be an effective alternative way to reduce cancer deaths.

“These findings add to growing evidence in cancer research on the importance of reducing sedentary behavior and support the public health message that adults should sit less and move more to promote health and longevity.”

Medical reference: Medical News Today