Too much time spent sitting increases the risk of developing cancer, even for those who exercise regularly. That’s according to research presented Thursday morning at the American Institute for Cancer Research's annual conference.
The AICR presented data suggesting that about 100,000 new cases of breast cancer and colon cancer per year can be associated with physical inactivity. One study presented at the conference and published in October in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that among post-menopausal women, taking frequent breaks from sitting was associated with smaller waist circumference and lower levels of C-reactive proteins, both biomarkers associated with elevated risk of some cancers. In an analysis of data for 4,757 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) published in the European Heart Journal, even short periods of light activity -- frequently standing up and walking for as little as a minute at time -- reduced risk for such biomarkers as large waist circumference, elevated triglyceride levels and increased insulin resistance, which are linked to heightened cardiovascular disease but might also boost cancer risk.
Taken together and in the context of earlier research, the new information suggests that even small increases in our physical activity may pay off in spades.
To illustrate how inactivity relates to cancer risk, the AICR developed this infographic showing how small episodes of movement throughout the day can add up.
The AICR’s press materials note that while the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity goes a long way in keeping people healthy, the remaining 23.5 hours in a day matter, too. The AICR suggests setting your computer to remind you to get up and walk around every 60 minutes, to stand or walk around while talking on the phone, to deliver messages to the colleague down the hall in person rather than by e-mail, to conduct meetings while taking a walk rather than sitting at a conference table and to use light hand weights to work your muscles even when seated at your desk.