Doing this very common thing every day can increase cancer risk by 82%

The first two months of quarantine were a bittersweet mix of hooky nostalgia and streaming catchup.  But it didn’t take long for reality to sink in

Being lucky enough not to contract COVID-19 or know someone who did, doesn’t counteract the overwhelming surplus of time given to every American to sit around and metronomically absorb our strange new world.  

After years of research on the harmful effects of sedentary lifestyles, a pandemic has made it all but impossible to adhere to exercise guidelines established by The Department of Health. Thankfully a new prospective cohort study published in JAMA Oncology journal has provided some extra incentives for us to get creative. 

In it, the authors revealed that prolonged inactivity increases one’s risk of dying of cancer by 82%.

“Sedentary behavior is associated with several health outcomes, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. Less is known about the association between objectively measured sedentary behavior and cancer mortality, as well as the association with physical activity,” the authors wrote in the new report. “The present analysis was performed from April 18, 2019, to April 21, 2020. Findings suggest that the total volume of sedentary behavior is a potential cancer mortality risk factor and support the public health message that adults should sit less and move more to promote longevity.

Association of Sedentary Behavior With Cancer Mortality

The authors supported their analysis with the 8,002 black and white adults aged 45 years or older who were previously enrolled in The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.

The exposures assessed with a hip-mounted accelerometer were as follows: Sedentary time, light-intensity physical activity (LIPA), and moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA).

Participants were required to wear these devices for seven consecutive days between the years 2008 and 2013. After a mean follow-up of five years, it was determined that 268 participants died of cancer.

Not only was a longer duration of sedentary behavior independently linked to a greater risk of cancer death, but the study authors also found that engaging in either light or moderate to vigorous physical activity dramatically influenced this potentiality. 

By replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time with physical activity participants lowered their risk for cancer mortality by 31%. Light-physical activities like walking yielded an additional  8% risk of cancer death decrease.

Consistency seemed to offer the most robust results. Cycling every day, running, and swimming are all ideal but brisk activities that can be done in the home proffered sizeable decreases to cancer risk as well.  Be sure to check out Ladders’ guide to the ultimate home workout, here.

“In multivariable-adjusted models, including MVPA, greater total sedentary time was associated with a greater risk of cancer mortality. Longer sedentary bout duration was not significantly associated with greater cancer mortality risk: after adjustment for MVPA),” the authors concluded. “Replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time with LIPA was significantly associated with an 8% lower risk of cancer mortality; MVPA was significantly associated with a 31%  lower risk of cancer mortality.”